WASHINGTON -- Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) has officially announced that she'll be challenging first-term Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) in 2014, potentially offering voters a choice between two candidates with starkly opposing views on abortion and ensuring that women's rights will continue to be an issue in the next election.
Corbett attracted the ire of abortion rights activists last year during the debate over a far-reaching mandatory ultrasound bill for women seeking abortions. He quickly became a target of women's groups when he dismissed concerns that the bill went too far, saying it wasn't a problem if women were forced to look at the ultrasound image because "[Y]ou just have to close your eyes."
Schwartz, in contrast, is a strong supporter of abortion rights, earning a "pro-choice score" of 100 percent from NARAL Pro-Choice America. Before she was in Congress, she also ran a Philadelphia women's health center where abortions were performed. Conservatives looking into her past have already zeroed in on the clinic.
The five-term congresswoman, however, hopes voters will focus on her moderate economic record instead.
"A state as great as Pennsylvania can no longer tolerate Harrisburg's business as usual," she said in a statement on Monday, after she officially filed her papers to run for governor. "We are ready for a strong, effective leader who shares Pennsylvania's priorities. I am ready to use my skills and experience to build on our state's assets, find common ground, and get results for Pennsylvania's middle class families."
Last month, Schwartz told Politico that she would speak mainly about "economic growth," but added, "Gov. Corbett has chosen to say some pretty harsh things about women ... [T]hat’s not been a winning message for Republicans.”
Schwartz must defeat a crowded primary field of four other Democrats in order to become the party's nominee.
In late March, EMILY's List -- which supports Democratic women who back abortion rights -- released a poll showing that Schwartz was the strongest possible Democratic candidate to beat Corbett.
"Allyson Schwartz has an outstanding record of putting Pennsylvania families front and center, which is a contrast to Gov. Corbett's tireless crusade against women and families," EMILY's List Press Secretary Marcy Stech told The Huffington Post on Monday. "From blocking women's access to health care to famously telling women who are subjected to forced ultrasounds to 'just close your eyes,' he has a destructive record to run on. We could not be more excited for this race get started."
Corbett's campaign did not return a request for comment. He recently defended himself from criticism that he's part of a "war on women," however, in an interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Dom Giordano.
"Other than one comment that was taken completely out of context and didn't draw any attention back when there was a bill under consideration ... [there are] no other comments that I have said about women out there," said Corbett.
"I don’t know why people would call it a war on women,” he said. "We do not have a war on anybody."