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County Hall Corner: Meet the Candidates – PA Gubernatorial Edition

The upcoming Pennsylvania primary on May 17th, just a month and a half from now, will be one of the most difficult for PA voters in some time. The list of candidates is a long one, and even the most seasoned strategists are finding this year’s list daunting. This week we will be looking at the various candidates running for Pennsylvania governor.

Governor Tom Wolf is restricted by term limits from running again, and his heir apparent from the Democratic Party is Josh Shapiro. He has served two terms as PA Attorney General and has been endorsed by Governor Wolf. Shapiro is a self-described progressive Democrat and is running on a platform of protecting voting rights, reproductive rights, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The Republican Party had at one point twenty-something different candidates running for PA governor, the highest number ever for a high-profile primary contest. I have directly encountered four of these candidates. The one I found most interesting was Nche Zama, an African from Cameroon who came to the USA on a student visa with just $20 in his pocket and eventually became one of the nation’s leading cardiothoracic surgeons.

However, Dr. Zama, like many of the other candidates, is finding that it takes more than just a good story and a fan club to break through the pack. The original number is now down to ten active candidates, and to be honest, only half of those stand much of a chance of winning the primary. Looking at the Top Five, they could be divided into two groups — the hotshots and the longshots. The hotshots are those that are front runners and appear to have the wind at their back. These two are Lou Barletta and Doug Mastriano.

Lou Barletta, a former mayor of Hazleton who went on to become a US congressman for northeastern PA, is the current front runner, but just barely. He is known for his anti-immigration views and, like Tom Marino, was an early supporter of President Donald Trump. He has also been a strong supporter of law enforcement officers and military veterans and believes in strengthening our election security, economy, and infrastructure. He has advocated for pro-school choice as well as pro-parent choice.

Doug Mastriano is a retired Army colonel in his first term in the state Senate representing a district along the Maryland border. He has largely based his race championing former President Trump’s refutations of the 2020 election results. He was in contact with Trump and had advanced the idea state lawmakers could intervene and send pro-Trump delegates to the Electoral College. He organized buses to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol trying to disrupt certification of Biden’s win. Through all this, Mastriano has gained the appreciation of many Trump supporters, and he is hoping to ride this wind to the governor’s office in Harrisburg. As of mid-March, polls had Barletta around 20 percent and Mastriano polling at 17 percent.

The longshots are all dancing around single digits, including businessman Dave White, attorney William McSwain, and State Senate Pro Tempore Jack Corman.

White is a self-made man who went from a union pipefitter to owning his own company. He is a practical kind of guy who has a focus on helping veterans.

McSwain was a former US Attorney appointed by President Trump who had served as a scout/sniper platoon commander in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Corman has been running for governor while maintaining his position as PA Senate Pro Temp, hopeful that his twenty years of experience in state government will give him an edge over others.

As of the latest polling, before this article was written, White was polling around 11 percent, McSwain at 7, and Corman was at 5. (Zama, by the way, polled at one percent). The other half of voters were either voting for outliers or unsure who they were voting for yet.

These numbers show that there are a whole lot of people who have yet to make up their minds on who they would want to represent the Republican Party for Pennsylvania governor in the fall election. Some will be swayed by who former President Trump endorses if he chooses to do so. Expect to see more and more advertisements from these candidates in the coming weeks. It will be clear who has built the biggest war chest as this will be the candidate that will have the highest profile in media advertising and mail circulars coming to your door. Do not be fooled — the one with the most funding is not necessarily the best candidate. Look, listen, learn, and make an informed choice on Tuesday, May 17th.