The big question for Dan Onorato's gubernatorial aspirations these days is: Can his strength as a politician outweigh his star-crossed record as an official?
As we all know, last week Onorato was dealt a setback in his efforts to use drink-tax revenue to pay for county public-works projects. Bar owners and other critics pointed out that the tax was supposed to pay to cover costs at the Port Authority, and Common Pleas Court Judge Judith Olsen agreed.
"With today's injunction, Allegheny County now faces a $12 million hole in our 2009 operating budget," Onorato lamented in a statement issued last Friday. The following Monday, he held a press conference, wherein he announced he wouldn't challenge the ruling, and the county would find a way to muddle through financially.
(Also, there's gonna be a Steelers rally! Look! Something shiny!)
But amusingly enough -- and less noted in the press -- Onorato had another bit of financial news to report on Monday. The folks at his campaign thoughtfully forwarded a PolitickerPA.com dispatch reporting that Onorato's campaign PAC had more than $4 million in cash on hand --
making him well positioned for a likely gubernatorial run in 2010. Onorato is considered by many to be the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to succeed Gov. Ed Rendell, the two-term Democrat who will leave office in two years. With campaign finance reports not due for another month, Onorato's PAC did not release many details of his fundraising, but did say he had raised about $2.2 million in 2008 and $1.3 million just since the November election.
That sums up 2008 for Dan Onorato: He's been incredibly successful at raising money for himself, even as he's drawn fire for trying to raise money for the government he leads.
And the state Supreme Court hasn't even ruled on his property-tax freeze yet. If Onorato loses that suit, it means Allegheny County -- and every other county across the state -- may have to begin yearly tax reassessments. Which means communities across the state will have him to think when homeowners start getting increased tax bills.
My advice to Onorato ... keep raising those contributions. While you can.