Clock ticking as Wagner eyes possible gov bid

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Time is running out for Pennsylvania’s Democratic would-be governors to say whether they’re in or out of the race, and Jack Wagner appears likely to be among the last to decide.

The former two-term state auditor general and former state senator from Pittsburgh said in November that he would announce his decision by the end of 2013, but on Wednesday he said he’s still not made up his mind.

Wagner, who would be the only candidate from western Pennsylvania, said he was encouraged by a recent independent poll suggesting he’d be a stronger challenger against Republican Gov. Tom Corbett than Democrats who’ve been running for months.

He cited his lingering statewide name recognition from his tenure as auditor general, which ended a year ago, and his experience in issues facing state and local governments.

“All the issues we are talking about today we have looked at and analyzed in great detail over the years,” he said. “I believe I can step into a race even now and be competitive.”

Wagner, who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010 but was defeated in the primary, has flirted with the possibility of launching another gubernatorial campaign since he lost the Pittsburgh mayoral primary in May.

But other Democrats – eight so far – began lining up in late 2012 to compete for the nomination to take on Corbett, who is regarded as one of the most vulnerable governors, and are raising millions of dollars for their campaigns.

“There’s no doubt the longer you wait, the more difficult it is to have a full-scale (campaign) operation in place,” Wagner conceded. “I don’t think I’ve ever been the best-financed candidate.”

State election laws could force Wagner’s hand.

Major-party candidates can begin circulating nomination petitions on Feb. 18. The only ones who will be listed on the May 20 primary ballot are those who gather at least 2,000 signatures, including at least 100 from each of 10 counties, by March 11.

Spokesmen for some other candidates said Wagner’s status won’t affect their plans.

“We’re happy where we are,” said Mark Nicastre, campaign spokesman for businessman Tom Wolf, who has said he raised several million dollars last year in addition to the $10 million he has personally pledged to the campaign.

Mike Mikus, campaign spokesman for former state environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty, said, “We don’t believe that an additional candidate will change the math” for McGinty.

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