From Pa. suburbs, 2 run for treasurer

Montco's Rob McCord has raised $1.5 million for the primary. Bucks' John Cordisco is unfazed.

Posted: July 02, 2007

Montgomery County venture capitalist Rob McCord says he has raised $1.5 million to seek the Democratic nomination for state treasurer in 2008, a whopping amount for a relatively obscure race.

McCord, a party activist from Bryn Mawr, sought to send a message last week by preparing a state campaign-finance report, even though it is not required for a primary still 10 months away.

His tally raised eyebrows in state politics but did not scare likely rival John Cordisco, the Bucks County Democratic chairman who is busy lining up party support for his own campaign.

"I seem to have a mental illness that makes me love fund-raising. It's shaping up very nicely," joked McCord, 48, a first-time candidate who is director of PA Early Stage, a group of venture-capital funds.

"You just can't parachute into a statewide race," said Cordisco, 52, who served in the state House from 1981 through 1986, and has been county chairman for five years. "Somebody coming in with no base and no core message doesn't concern me."

State row offices - treasurer, auditor general and attorney general - are often launching pads for future races for governor and senator.

And there's a bonus next year: No incumbent. Democrat Bob Casey resigned after being elected to the U.S. Senate in November, and current Treasurer Robin Wiessmann was appointed on the condition she not run for election.

If no other candidates emerge, the Democratic primary would be an all-Southeast affair, an oddity in Pennsylvania politics. For at least a generation, nobody from Philadelphia or its suburbs has held a state row office.

Politicians from southwestern Pennsylvania have dominated because the region historically has had a higher voter turnout in primaries, and because of what pollster Terry Madonna calls the "friends-and-neighbors voting effect."

But the Philadelphia region's turnout in Democratic primaries has been climbing, Madonna said, and Gov. Rendell's election showed that southwestern voters can overlook regional ties, Madonna said.

In recent years, Democrats have run stronger than ever in the traditionally Republican Philadelphia suburbs, and the party has carried more statewide elections as a result. The Democratic presidential nominee has taken Pennsylvania's electoral votes in the last four elections largely because of the suburbs' shift.

Montgomery County Democratic chairman Marcel Groen said it's not surprising that two suburban Democrats are running for treasurer.

"It's going to happen more and more," he said. "There's a shift in the balance of power."

McCord, chairman of the Eastern Technology Council and former aide to several members of Congress, gave his own campaign $200,000. "The lead entrepreneur has to have real skin in the game," he said.

He got $100,000 from Syed Raza Bokhari of Villanova, president of Lakewood (N.J.) Pathology Associates.

Former Treasurer Barbara Hafer of Allegheny County, who has known McCord for several years, sent $30,000.

"He's a smart guy and a hard worker," she said, marveling at his fund-raising.

"As we know, money isn't everything," Hafer said. "His next task is to build a network, a county-by-county organization."

Among McCord's other donors: philanthropist Peter Buttenwieser, who gave $10,000; former state House Speaker Robert O'Donnell, State Sen. Connie Williams and Philadelphia lawyer Daniel Berger.

McCord has hired the Campaign Group, the firm that created ads for Democratic mayoral nominee Michael Nutter in Philadelphia.

Cordisco has his own firepower, and is planning a fund-raiser next Monday in New Hope. Among his supporters: U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, city Democratic chairman; Auditor General Jack Wagner; and Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham.

Also on board: the national media firm Murphy Putnam, as well as fund-raisers Mark Aronchick, Tom Leonard and Richard Schiffrin.

McCord said the treasurer "can make a huge difference" in issues like global climate change because of his or her power to invest billions.

He said he would also use the office as a "bully pulpit" to educate lower-income Pennsylvanians on financial matters and to increase the savings rate.

Cordisco said he would continue Treasury programs to invest in "green" technology and the HELP program that provides low-interest loans for hospital improvements around the state.


Contact staff writer Thomas Fitzgerald at 215-854-2718 or tfitzgerald@phillynews.com.

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