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Pa. primary election 2022: Your guide to the Democratic and GOP candidates for governor

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Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 primary governor election before going to the polls.
Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 primary governor election before going to the polls.
TOM GRALISH / Philadelphia Inquirer

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Final update, May 18, 2022: Doug Mastriano has won the Republican nomination for governor. He will face Democrat Josh Shapiro in the fall.

HARRISBURG — When Democrats head to the polls on May 17 for Pennsylvania’s 2022 primary election for governor, there will be just one choice on the ballot.

Republicans will face a much different situation, with nine candidates and still no clear frontrunner.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat first elected in 2014, is unable to run for re-election due to term limit restrictions. In this vacuum, Republicans have an opportunity to win the executive branch, which would leave them in control of the governor’s office as well as the legislature.

Wolf has often served as a foil to the GOP-majority General Assembly during his tenure, vetoing efforts to rewrite the state’s Election Code, roll back environmental policies, and further restrict abortion access. Many GOP candidates have vowed to sign such legislation.

Democrats have a voter registration edge over Republicans in the state, though that 500,000-plus advantage has been shrinking. While Wolf easily won reelection in 2018, close gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia last year have political watchers expecting a tight race here.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 primary governor election before going to the polls:

>> READ MORE: See how much money the GOP candidates for governor have raised

Democrat

Josh Shapiro has been involved in Pennsylvania politics since 2004.
THOMAS HENGGE / Philadelphia Inquirer
Josh Shapiro has been involved in Pennsylvania politics since 2004.

Josh Shapiro | Website

Elected attorney general in 2016, Shapiro has been involved in Pennsylvania politics since 2004 — first as a state representative, then as a county commissioner in Montgomery County. As Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor, Shapiro investigated sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church and pursued cases relating to the opioid epidemic.

Shapiro has listed defending voting access, maintaining abortion rights, and rebuilding infrastructure as major tenets of his campaign.

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? No. Shapiro has said he would reject any effort to repeal the law known as Act 77.

Endorsements: Pennsylvania Democratic Party, AFL-CIO

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>> WATCH LIVE: Spotlight PA hosts GOP gubernatorial debate

Republicans

Lou Barletta started his political career in Hazleton on the city council in 1998 and then as mayor in 2000.
TOM GRALISH / Philadelphia Inquirer
Lou Barletta started his political career in Hazleton on the city council in 1998 and then as mayor in 2000.

Lou Barletta | Website

Barletta started his political career in Hazleton on the city council in 1998 and then as mayor in 2000. In 2010, Barletta was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for eight years. He unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2018. Without providing specifics, Barletta is running on a myriad of issues including strengthening the economy, school choice, and oil and natural gas production; limiting access to abortion; and addressing “illegal immigration.”

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. Barletta has called Act 77 “unconstitutional” and believes the state needs signature verification and stricter voter ID requirements. During Republican attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Barletta was included on a list of alternate Republican electors for Trump.

“The language of the Pennsylvania document clearly states that this was done in case it was later determined that different electors were needed,” a Barletta campaign spokesperson told The Citizens’ Voice.

Endorsements: Oil & Gas Workers Association, state Rep. Barb Gleim, state Rep Aaron Kaufer

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Jake Corman replaced his father as a state senator in 1999.
Commonwealth Media Services
Jake Corman replaced his father as a state senator in 1999.

Jake Corman | Website

UPDATE: On May 12, Jake Corman announced he was backing Lou Barletta. His name will still appear on the ballot.

Corman replaced his father as a state senator in 1999. He served as the state Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2020, and he’s been the Senate president pro tempore since 2020. His vague platform includes “improving education,” election security, jobs, policing, and “defending freedoms.”

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. Corman voted for Act 77, but following the 2020 election, he’s supported its repeal and called for stricter voter ID requirements and third-party audits. Corman directed his chamber to conduct a “full forensic investigation” of the 2020 election, an idea fueled by baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

Endorsements: Spotlight PA could not identify any endorsements.

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Joe Gale became a Montgomery County commissioner after being elected in an upset in 2015.
Michael Bryant / Philadelphia Inquirer
Joe Gale became a Montgomery County commissioner after being elected in an upset in 2015.

Joe Gale | Website

Gale became a Montgomery County commissioner after being elected in an upset in 2015 with virtually no political experience. Gale labels himself an outsider and considers the Pennsylvania Republican party insufficiently conservative. In particular, he has criticized the Republican establishment, including his opponents Lou Barletta and Doug Mastriano.

Gale calls himself “staunchly pro-life,” and said one of his top priorities is ousting Republicans he considers insufficiently conservative.

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. He also wrote in the Times Herald, a Montgomery County paper, that any elected official who voted in favor of Act 77 should “should be disqualified from holding office.”

Endorsements: Spotlight PA could not identify any endorsements.

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Charlie Gerow is a prominent Republican political strategist.
Courtesy Charlie Gerow
Charlie Gerow is a prominent Republican political strategist.

Charlie Gerow | Website

Gerow, a prominent Republican political strategist, began his career working for Ronald Reagan. Since then, Gerow has worked as a lobbyist and consultant, opening his own public communications firm. He currently serves as the vice-chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Gerow has called himself a “Ronald Reagan Republican,” saying that he is best positioned to bridge the gap between the traditional Republican party and the increasingly radical wing of his party.

His election platform has focused on promoting economic growth through traditional conservative fiscal policies of reducing taxes and regulation and wants to promote the state’s energy industry.

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. When Commonwealth Court struck down Act 77 as unconstitutional (a ruling being appealed in the state Supreme Court), Gerow called it “great news for election integrity and the prevention of voter fraud and ballot harvesting.” Gerow’s name was also listed on a certificate to assign Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes to Trump, should a court challenge have succeeded.

Endorsements: U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson; Michael Regan, son of President Ronald Regan; former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich; Matt Schlapp, executive director of CPAC; former U.S. Rep. Bob Walker; state Rep. Jerry Knowles; former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich

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Melissa Hart has served as both a member of Congress and as a state senator.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Philadelphia Inquirer
Melissa Hart has served as both a member of Congress and as a state senator.

Melissa Hart | Website

UPDATE: On May 13, Melissa Hart announced she was backing Lou Barletta. Her name will still appear on the ballot.

Hart has served as both a member of Congress and as a state senator representing Allegheny County. She has said that her success in areas that had majority Democratic registration speaks to her electability. Hart has been working as a lawyer for the past 14 years and is currently an attorney at Hergenroeder Rega Ewing & Kennedy, a law firm based in Pittsburgh.

Hart’s campaign has focused on deregulating corporations and lowering taxes, expanding the natural gas industries, and implementing more restrictive abortion laws.

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Maybe. Hart told the Capital-Star she personally doesn’t like no-excuse mail voting, but would need to do more study before committing to a repeal.

Endorsements: Spotlight PA could not identify any endorsements.

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Doug Mastriano began serving as a state senator in 2019.
Amanda Berg / For Spotlight PA
Doug Mastriano began serving as a state senator in 2019.

Doug Mastriano | Website

A retired Army colonel, Mastriano began serving as a state senator in 2019 and has been called a Christian nationalist, a label he rejects. However, he has often shared Islamophobic posts on social media, the New Yorker reported.

Mastriano has highlighted anti-abortion policy, fiscal conservatism, and Second Amendment rights as central tenets of his campaign. He led many anti-shutdown rallies during the early months of the pandemic.

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. Mastriano has propagated false claims of widespread election fraud. He has been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee over his communication with the Trump White House during attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He was also seen near the Capitol on the day of the insurrection.

Endorsements: Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to Trump; state Rep. Rob Kauffman; state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz; conservative commentator and U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette; Gun Owners of America

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Bill McSwain is a former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Philadelphia.
JOSE F. MORENO / Philadelphia Inquirer
Bill McSwain is a former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Philadelphia.

Bill McSwain | Website

McSwain is a former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, where he had a contentious relationship with its elected officials.

If elected governor, he has promised to focus on stimulating the economy and energy production, improving access to education, limiting access to abortion, dealing with the opioid epidemic, and “bringing back law and order.”

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. McSwain says no-excuse mail voting caused confusion and delayed the election results (something that can be blamed, in part, on the state’s lack of robust pre-canvassing time).

Endorsements: Sean Parnell, a former candidate for U.S. Senate who dropped out after he lost custody of his children in a case that also revealed allegations of domestic abuse; state Rep. Kathy Rapp; Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs; Republican State Committee of Chester County

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Dave White is the owner of an HVAC company and a former Delaware County Council member.
Keith Srakocic / AP
Dave White is the owner of an HVAC company and a former Delaware County Council member.

Dave White | Website

White is the owner of an HVAC company and a former Delaware County Council member. He’s campaigning as a political outsider and someone with “real world” experience.

In a press release announcing his candidacy, he called for allocating more funding to police, lowering taxes, and railed against “critical race theory” — an academic framework to study race in society and law that has been co-opted by right-wing activists as indoctrination by progressives — and “kids failing in schools.” On his website, White listed protecting Second Amendment rights, limiting access to abortion, and preventing transgender women from competing in women’s sports as priorities.

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. White has said that no-excuse mail voting is a “disaster.”

Endorsements: State Sen. Dan Laughlin, former Trump Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Butler County GOP

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Nche Zama is a cardiothoracic surgeon who lives in the Poconos and immigrated to the United States from Cameroon as a teenager on a student visa.
Courtesy Nche Zama campaign
Nche Zama is a cardiothoracic surgeon who lives in the Poconos and immigrated to the United States from Cameroon as a teenager on a student visa.

Nche Zama | Website

Zama is a cardiothoracic surgeon who lives in the Poconos and immigrated to the United States from Cameroon as a teenager on a student visa. With virtually no political experience, Zama believes his independence from the political establishment will distinguish him from the other candidates.

Zama’s campaign has centered on education and health care, two things he says he has personally benefited from after immigrating to the United States.

Supports repealing Pa.’s no-excuse mail voting law? Yes. Zama has said he supports its repeal and would want to set up a commission to look more deeply into the topic.

Endorsements: Spotlight PA could not identify any endorsements.

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