U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a 24-year veteran of legislative battles in the state Legislature and Congress, told an audience of business people and lobbyists Monday that she would not let the "old boys' club" get in the way of progress if she is elected governor.
The fifth-term congresswoman has used the term in her campaign advertising and speeches to describe what she regards as inertia among the legislative establishment in Harrisburg, where she served in the state Senate for 14 years, and to separate herself from it.
"The feeling that we can't do anything ... contributes to that sense that in fact you don't have to," she said at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon. "I think that sometimes the press lets people get away with not doing anything, excuses them," from tackling tough issues.
Schwartz touted examples of her leadership ability, including her roles in co-founding a Philadelphia women's health center in 1975 and creating Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides low-cost health care for children, in the early '90s.
Asked by a reporter what besides her gender separates her from the "old boys' club," Schwartz replied, "I have pushed to get things done that matter to Pennsylvania families. That's what defines me."
In the Democratic primary, Schwartz faces competition from three other candidates — York businessman Tom Wolf, state Treasurer Rob McCord and former state environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty.
In her remarks, Schwartz mentioned only Wolf, a political newcomer whose injection of $10 million into his campaign financed an early TV advertising blitz that made him the apparent front-runner.
She renewed her criticism of a nearly $5 million personal loan that Wolf used to help jump-start his campaign and questioned his limited government experience, which consists of about two years as state revenue secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell.
She also took shots at Corbett for cutting education spending by nearly $1 billion during his first year in office and for declining federal money to expand the state's Medicaid program under President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
Schwartz noted that she is the only woman among Pennsylvania's 18 elected members of the U.S. House.
"I want to be special," she quipped, "I don't want to be that special."