HARRISBURG — Democrat Tom Wolf on Monday appointed his former primary election opponent, Katie McGinty, as chief of staff to oversee his administration when he becomes governor on Jan. 21.
McGinty, 51, of Philadelphia will assist with Wolf’s transition plans. She played a key role in his general election campaign, heading the Campaign for a Fresh Start, after finishing fourth in the May primary.
McGinty made frequent campaign appearances on Wolf’s behalf, and Fresh Start led the attack on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign.
Wolf cited McGinty’s experience in government and the private sector, predicting that she “will be an asset to my administration and to the people of Pennsylvania.” She worked with “diverse interests to achieve meaningful change in difficult environments,” he said in a statement, noting, “Her experience will help me work with Republicans and Democrats.”
The appointment unites two former cabinet secretaries of ex-Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. They’ll have the daunting prospect of carrying out Wolf’s agenda with a Legislature in which Republicans strengthened their numbers last week.
Among his campaign promises, Wolf, 65, a York businessman, proposes substantially boosting funding for K-12 public education and paying for it, in part, with a severance tax he wants to impose on natural gas drilling.
At the same time, the state faces a projected budget deficit of $1 billion to $2 billion.
Wolf and McGinty know the workings of the Capitol. He was secretary of the Department of Revenue for 19 months in 2008 and 2009; McGinty headed the Department of Environmental Protection from 2003 to 2008.
McGinty’s outgoing personality and ability to win over critics earned her respect from some conservative lawmakers and analysts who disliked her policies. She brings the added advantage of Washington experience — something that could be critical since many state programs, from welfare to education, are intertwined with federal programs and funding.
McGinty chaired the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President Clinton and was a legislative aide to former Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn. Her connection to the Clintons could prove valuable if Hillary Clinton runs and wins the presidential race in two years.
Wolf and McGinty come from vastly different backgrounds.
He grew up in a Methodist family in the small town of Mt. Wolf in York County, named for one of his ancestors, where his family owns a furniture distribution company. He took over the Wolf Organization but will step down as chairman at year’s end.
McGinty grew up in Philadelphia as the daughter of a police officer and a waitress. She is one of 10 children in an Irish Catholic family.
Yet they share common experiences — including work in India and attendance at Ivy League universities.
McGinty spent a year with a research institute in India; Wolf served in the Peace Corps there. McGinty won scholarships to do undergraduate work at St. Joseph’s University and earned a law degree at Columbia University. Wolf attended Dartmouth College and the University of London, and earned a doctorate in political science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or email@example.com.