Who Doesn’t Like Allyson Schwartz?

Um, a lot of people? A lifetime of breaking down barriers has earned Allyson Schwartz a chance to become Pennsylvania’s first female governor–and plenty of enemies who think she cares just a little too much about Allyson Schwartz.

Allyson Schwartz Next Governor of PA?

Photography by Ryan Collerd

In the end—my last moment with Allyson Schwartz, sitting in her office in Washington—she is about to cry. “You’re getting a little emotional, Congresswoman,” I tell her. “Yes,” she says. “So I’m done.” // I laugh—her abruptness is funny, as she intends. But she also means it, that we’re done. I thank her for all the time she’s given me, we say goodbye, and our last interview is over.

Schwartz and I have spent the past half-hour rolling through some things other people have said about her. Normally, talking to Allyson Schwartz produces a torrent of energy and initiatives and ideas. By the time of that last interview, I’d spent hours with her—at a diner in the Northeast; in Pittsburgh, where she logged a day campaigning; and then in the U.S. Capitol. Her vigor and drive, especially, are daunting. There is nothing in the world around her—or, more precisely, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where she is running for governor—that Schwartz doesn’t want to fix.

Judging by Tom Corbett’s popularity, which is in the toilet, many Pennsylvanians will probably like that about Schwartz. Indeed, the governorship is there for the taking, and after a decade in Congress and 14 years before that in the state Senate, Schwartz has decided to take a shot at becoming the first woman to lead our state.

But her march back to Harrisburg is likely to reveal something else about her: that there are many people in the political worlds of Philadelphia and Harrisburg—not a few, not a mere handful, but many—who can’t stand Allyson Schwartz. Who say that what she’s really all about isn’t being a public servant and improving the lives of ordinary Pennsylvanians, as she fervently claims, but buffing and shining her own image.

This isn’t an unusual complaint about a politician, of course, and with Schwartz, it’s all complicated by the fact that she is, as she acknowledges, an aggressive woman bent on getting things done. But the hubbub surrounding her is strong. About a decade ago, Philly Democratic insiders watching her political rise were so annoyed by her that they had an “I Hated Her First” competition.

There are other stories, too. That Schwartz allegedly exaggerates what she’s accomplished. That she’s abandoned supporters. That she’s spread lies about an opponent. For example, in 2000, both Schwartz and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies were vying to win the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate (eventually captured by Ron Klink). Margolies supporters say Schwartz spread a story that Margolies was about to be awarded an ambassadorship by President Bill Clinton, which, of course, would have ended her run for the Senate. But no such offer was ever in the works—Schwartz, they claim, made it up.

Sitting in Schwartz’s D.C. office, I ask her about that. She says she doesn’t remember it.

There are other stories I run by her, harsh critiques of her behavior. Schwartz stays calm. In fact, almost eerily calm; the nonstop talker gets quiet. She stares. When she speaks, explaining her drive for the governorship one last time, her dark eyes are riveting. Then they get even larger with feeling and glass over.

“I’m done,” she tells me.

Though, really, she is just beginning. Convincing Pennsylvanians that she’s the one to replace Tom Corbett won’t be easy. Allyson Schwartz has hurdled many barriers in her 40 years as a woman in public roles, and it may seem absurd to think that a preponderance of the Commonwealth’s voters believe it needs to be led by a man. But a question will undoubtedly rise up, because a woman running for governor faces a deep test.

The question is: Just who is she?

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  • Robert Blake

    Why do people not like Schwartz? Maybe you should ask constituents like myself. We are ignored by her. My story, 4 years ago my family was having great difficulty with the IRS. They targeted us because we were seeking an adoption tax credit. No matter what we did, the IRS found fault with what we submitted, lost documents we submitted, etc. It was a nightmare and we were going to face stiff fines.
    So I called Schwartz, impossible to get through and left a message. I emailed Schwartz. I got no response from anyone in her office. I only got place on an email list to praise her accomplishments. Gee thanks Allyson for the help.
    I turned next to our two Senators for help. I called and emailed Casey. I got no response from him. Well, I got a letter several months later explaining something he was accomplishing that had nothing to do with my request for help with the IRS.
    Next I went to Senator Toomey. Same thing, I called and left a message and emailed. Low and behold within 24 hours I got a call from his office and an email. They expressed concern and stated this has been an ongoing problem with the IRS and adoptive families. They agreed to help and resolved the problem pretty quickly by hand delivering all the documents we had provided numerous times to the IRS. It was accepted finally.
    So Schwartz, she is on my list of politicians to never trust. She does not care about her constituents.

  • Steve9099

    After that clown we have now, Ms. Schwartz will be just fine.

    • Dan P

      That’s a bad attitude which leads to more bad leaders

  • denvird

    The Dining Car is not in Frankford.

    • Dan P

      Is it even ON frankford?

  • janet

    this article is a real hatchet job and focuses more on personality than accomplishments and policy positions. Schwartz can take the heat and I hope she gets to the kitchen in Harrisburg and sweeps out the crumbs!!

  • I’ll be voting for John Hanger. Schwartz has a whole host of votes that disturb me, including a vote to continue the NSA’s unconstitutional practice of mass data collection on American citizens. Schwartz has also been silent on the issue of marijuana prohibition. I’m convinced that Schwartz will deliver more of the same tired policies that got us into this mess. Schwartz feels like another establishment candidate, and I cannot in good conscience support that.