Schwartz, 64, argues her experience in Washington and Harrisburg makes her the strongest potential nominee to challenge Corbett. The governor's approval rating in independent public polls is at a historic low, though Pennsylvania voters have yet to turn down an incumbent chief executive seeking a second term.
"We've got to do all we can to defy history," Schwartz said. "It's not going to be easy."
Corbett was beginning a trade mission to Brazil and Chile on Monday aimed at luring investment in Pennsylvania.
Schwartz is in her fifth term representing Pennsylvania's 13th District, which includes the working-class neighborhoods of Northeast Philadelphia as well as portions of Montgomery County. Before winning election to Congress in 2004, she was a member of the state Senate, beginning in 1991.
To win that 2004 race, Schwartz bucked party elders, including then-Gov. Ed Rendell, who preferred another candidate.
If she is successful in 2014, Schwartz would be the first woman elected governor of Pennsylvania. Her backers and strategists have used that historical milestone as an argument for her candidacy, but Schwartz sought to downplay it.
"I'm running to be governor, not the 'first woman' governor," she said. "But the fact that I am the only woman in the congressional delegation and in a senior policy-making role, means people know I can beat the odds. I have brought a different perspective . . . it does change the dynamic."
Though known as a strong advocate of abortion rights and gun-control measures, Schwartz's record on economic and fiscal issues is moderate, a fact her campaign intends to highlight. In the U.S. House, for instance, Schwartz sponsored the largest-ever tax credit for biotechnology companies, a growing sector of the economy in Pennsylvania.
Former City Controller Jonathan Saidel, who ran for lieutenant governor in the 2010 Democratic primary, signed on as chairman of Schwartz's effort. Last week, Saidel established an exploratory committee to run for her seat in the House.
Schwartz's move had been expected. She joins a growing field of contenders for the Democratic nomination of those considering a run.
Tom Wolf, a York county businessman and former state revenue secretary who has said he could spend $10 million of his own on a campaign, entered the race last week.
Kathleen McGinty, a former state environmental secretary and aide in the Clinton White House, has established an exploratory committee and is raising money toward a possible run.
Others considering it include state Treasurer Rob McCord, of Montgomery County; as well as former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County, the 2010 Democratic Senate nominee who lost to Republican Pat Toomey.
John Hanger, also a former environmental secretary, has declared his candidacy, as has Max Myers, a minister from Dauphin County. Then there's Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, State Sen. Mike Stack of Northeast Philadelphia, and Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro.
Contact Thomas Fitzgerald at 215-854-2718 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @tomfitzgerald on Twitter. Read his blog, "The Big Tent," at www.philly.com/bigtent.