Ex-treasurer Hafer says Casey is the Democrats' best hope of beating Santorum.
HARRISBURG (AP) -- State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. picked up an endorsement for his U.S. Senate campaign Tuesday from former treasurer Barbara Hafer, who hailed Casey as the Democratic Party's best hope of unseating Republican incumbent Rick Santorum next year.
Hafer was Casey's prospective rival for the Democratic nomination for Senate until Gov. Ed Rendell persuaded her to step aside in March.
She announced her endorsement in an e-mail message to about 35,000 party activists that also urged recipients to demonstrate their support for Casey by making $50 donations to his campaign.
"If we are going to retire Rick Santorum, the Democratic Party must stand united in supporting a candidate that can score a win for Pennsylvania families," she said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other national Democratic leaders recruited Casey, the late governor's son who has won three statewide elections since 1996, to take on Santorum, the Senate's third-ranking Republican.
Hafer's prospective candidacy posed the threat of a divisive primary battle over abortion rights, which she supports and Casey opposes. She had even accepted help in the form of money and staff from Emily's List, an abortion-rights group in Washington, in organizing her campaign.
In her message, Hafer mentioned the abortion issue only indirectly but stressed his support for public financing of family-planning services and "contraceptive equity" in health insurance coverage. In a telephone interview, she said the fact that both Casey and Santorum oppose abortion rights "removes that issue" from a head-on race between the two men.
She acknowledged that Casey faces opposition in the Democratic primary from a political newcomer who favors abortion rights -- Philadelphia college professor Chuck Pennacchio -- but said she is confident Casey will be nominated.
"The overriding issue for Democrats is to beat Santorum," she said.
Santorum heads into his second re-election campaign with a huge financial advantage. He raised nearly $2 million between Jan. 1 and March 31 and had $2.8 million on hand at the end of the reporting period, according to the report he filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Casey raised about $90,000 during the same period, and Pennacchio raised about $1,400, according to their FEC filings.