After being outspent and outshouted for months in the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial primary, Laura Ellsworth is getting air time, endorsements, and — she hopes — a surge toward the finish line.
Ellsworth, a Pittsburgh attorney, never had the personal wealth to compete with state Sen. Scott Wagner and Pittsburgh businessman Paul Mango, each of whom invested millions in their own campaigns.
But the two spent a lot of their TV ad time attacking each other, and as the shots became increasingly harsh, Ellsworth’s campaign adopted the logical approach: Let the two guys beat each other up and come in at the end when voters are looking for something more uplifting.
Ellsworth stayed out of the bickering at debates, saying voters want a positive vision and her record of bringing people together.
And she saved her limited campaign cash for the closing weeks of the race.
Now she's on TV with a message she thinks voters are primed for.
“Are you sick of politicians talking about each other rather than you?” Ellsworth says in her commercial as video of a particularly harsh Mango attack plays. “I'm Laura Ellsworth, and I'm running for governor because it's time to put people before politics to get conservative things done.”
Is it enough?
While Ellsworth is having a good run, campaign finance reports show a lopsided edge for Mango and Wagner in overall firepower in the race.
Wagner and Mango had each spent more than $7.5 million in the campaign as of April 30, while Ellsworth had spent $563,000.
But with a week left until the May 15 primary, she has enough in the tank to be competitive with them in TV buys through Election Day. She’s hoping voters will get to know her just as they’re turned off by the attacks from other candidates and looking for something else.
The ad wars between Mango and Wagner have cooled some in recent weeks, with the candidates focusing on more positive messages.
Ellsworth’s campaign has released a poll taken before her ads aired, showing Wagner in the lead with 28 percent, Mango in second with 24 percent, and Ellsworth in third with 17 percent.
That leaves nearly a third of voters up for grabs and Ellsworth, she hopes, within striking distance.