Politics & Policy

‘Gun Shy’ Donors Decline to Support Onorato

Dan Onorato pivoted on school choice — sort of — when he announced last week that he would support a state “grant” system for children in failing pubic schools. In announcing his “grant” idea, Onorato appeared with Anthony Williams, Democrat state senator, strident school-choice advocate, and recipient of some $1.5 million earlier this year from school choice business supporters.

I wrote last week that Onorato’s announcement, despite displeasing the teachers’ union, could mean similar support from Williams’ school choice crowd. Alas, it doesn’t look like Onorato will be seeing those checks any time soon:

The founders of Susquehanna Investment Group — Jeffrey Yass, Arthur Dantchik, and Joel Greenberg — do not intend to write substantial checks to Onorato’s campaign despite the Democrat’s new support for school-choice vouchers, a source said this week. The three gave more than $1.5 million to Williams in April because of the senator’s support for the vouchers. “They are gun-shy now because they did not enjoy the scrutiny that came their way after their donations became public,” the source said. “In principle, they are neither Democratic nor Republican. … While Onorato’s plan is a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough.[emphasis added]

This was the danger inherent in Onorato mimicking Tom Corbett’s school choice stance.

Now that it’s clear Onorato won’t be gaining financially from this move — at least from the Williams backers — this “grant” position on education looks all the more like an ill-conceived attempt to appeal to a demographic already likely to vote Republican, while inviting alienation of the union base that he’ll need in lock-step to close a gaping 10-point deficit in the polls.

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