In the first attack ad of the previously placid, some would say somnolent, Democratic primary for governor, State Sen. Anthony Williams criticizes front-runner Dan Onorato over his support of a variety of tax increases and contends that the executive has presented an unduly rosy picture of Allegheny County’s economy.
To buttress the latter charge, however, the Williams campaign employs a creative use of unemployment data. In the Williams ad, a narrator says, “Dan Onorato says he’s unemployment low. But unemployment in his county has risen a whopping 30 percent in just the last year _ faster than the state and the nation.’’
That’s true _ as far as it goes. But the statistic the commercial touches on is the rate of change in the jobless number, not the employment rate itself, which, is as Mr. Onorato has noted in his ads, is lower than the state and national rates.
In a fact sheet documenting its claims, the Williams campaign states that the Allegheny County unemployment rate rose from 6.3 percent to 8.2 percent between February 2009 and February 2010. Over the same period, the state rate rose from 7.2 percent to 8.9 percent, and the national figure from 8.2 percent to 9.7 percent. But the Allegheny County jobless figure still remained below the state and national rates, and, in fact, dropped to 8 percent in March.
The ad also cites Mr. Onorato’s support for tax increases while a member of Pittsburgh city Council and along with the drink tax enacted by his administration in the county.
“Given that Dan Onorato is running for Governor to reform the way Harrisburg does business, it's not surprising that one of the most anti-reform legislators in Harrisburg -- Tony Williams -- has started to run a negative campaign against him,’’ Brian Herman, a spokesman for Mr. Onorato, said in rebuttal to the ad. “In the 20 years that Williams has been in Harrisburg, he's raised his own pay twice and padded his pension by 50%.’’The ad follows a series of generally positive ads from Williams, the only candidate besides Mr. Onorato able to afford a substantial media presence. Auditor General Jack Wagner has just begun advertising but on a much smaller scale that Mr. Onorato or Mr. Williams. Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel has yet to air commercials.