After what was a slow couple of early months for this race, the past month has seen Republicans in Pennsylvania start to move in regards to the Governor’s race. As mentioned previously, the Democratic side is basically already decided. Attorney General Josh Shapiro has all but had the red carpet rolled out for him once he officially enters the race. The Republican side is much messier. With no clear frontrunner, a whole slew of candidates have declared their interest. And this past month alone, three have made their intentions known, all serious candidates for the race. With the field starting to grow, its safe to wonder; are others who still wait losing out on valuable time to campaign?
Lou Barletta Hopes His 2018 Senate Run Doesn’t Haunt Him
The first domino to fall was an expected one. Having been rumored to be eyeing run for governor since late 2019, Barletta announced over a television show that he was in. Now, there are certainly some downsides Barletta will have to answer for. The biggest of which was his failed 2018 senate run where he got clobbered statewide by Senator Bob Casey Jr.
Barletta can make the argument he did as well as can be expected in a D+8 year and against the strongest candidate in Pennsylvania. He can also say he was drug down by Scott Wagner. But, there were a lot of concerning decisions from Barletta in that race as well. Insiders have claimed that Barletta “gave up” on the race way before the final weeks. Barletta also hugged then President Donald Trump far too much for a midterm, which led to awful margins in the Philadelphia suburbs. There’s also the issue of Barletta’s term as Hazelton Mayor, where his decisions to fight lawsuits with the ACLU put the city into solvency. That’s not something people want to see as Governor.
In terms of gaining the nomination however, Barletta does have a lot of things going for him. He has name recognition among the base from 2018. He has strength in the northeastern part of the state, which would be important against Shapiro and in a primary. And his connections to Trump may get him an endorsement. He certainly wouldn’t be the strongest candidate against Shapiro, but he has his strengths.
Two State Senators Seem Set To Take The Plunge
This past week, two state senators announced the formation of exploratory committees to run for Governor. The first was Lancaster based senator Scott Martin. Martin, who was re-elected by 11 points in a seat Trump only won by five, announced his run last Tuesday. While only an exploratory committee, Martin has decent reasons to run. He would have a set base in Lancaster, the biggest Republican county in the state. He wouldn’t have to worry about running in his state senate seat at the same time since he was up in 2020. And he could argue that he can split the difference between Barletta and fellow state senator Dan Laughlin in terms of ideology. Martin can also argue he has the benefit of being a conservative who ran and won a competitive race. Though, arguably, that race was on the edge of competitiveness. If Martin fully pulls the trigger, it will be interesting to see how he runs and how he will gain name recognition.
The second was the aforementioned Laughlin. Laughlin, who represents Erie, is certainly the most moderate candidate in the race. Having used his moderate positions to win in a slightly blue seat twice, Laughlin is presenting a different pathway compared to other candidates. Having voted against stricter abortion laws and supporting marijuana legalization in the state, Laughlin is more a reminder of Tom Ridge than Tom Corbett. Now, in today‘s day and age, Laughlin will struggle to get connections to the base. He does however, have a current geographical advantage over the rest of the serious candidates. As the only candidate from the west so far, that will help Laughlin.
Who else Will Get In?
At this point, there seem to only be three more major candidates who are expected to jump in. The most notorious of which is state senator Doug Mastriano, from Franklin County. Mastriano has been the key figure in angling for a taxpayer-bleeding and unnecessary audit of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election. Which, by the way, was rigged really poorly considering two Republicans won statewide while Trump lost. Mastriano has heavy Facebook support, but he ran into a major problem recently. He has been so enthusiastic about his conversations with former President Trump that he’s upset Trump. And with that, Trump is apparently not giving Mastriano his endorsement. Mastriano’s campaign was heavily dependent on Trump’s endorsement and without it, he’s just an angry man from Franklin County.
Another very likely candidate is former US Attorney Bill McSwain. McSwain was originally thought to be targeting a Senate run, but has created a state level PAC for what’s expected to be a gubernatorial run. McSwain would be one of the strongest candidates for Republicans, but there’s questions about whether his attorney background will make noise against the incumbent AG.
The final likely candidate is Congressman Dan Meuser (PA-09). Meuser is a two term congressman from Luzerne who does have some self funding abilities. Meuser may just want to run to try and prolong his political career. The 9th is likely to be cut up in redistricting, making Meuser weaker as an incumbent. He doesn’t really have any defining characteristics from the rest of the field and I predict would struggle in a primary.
One person who does seem out is State Senator Camera Bartolotta. Representing Green, Washington and Beaver counties, Bartolotta was thought to be a candidate who could potentially carry the torch for the west. However, I’ve been told that Bartolotta is more than likely to look at a run for Congress if she seeks a promotion. The redrawn 17th district is what she would reportedly be targeting.
What’s clear is that this primary is still very much wide open. Many of these candidates will need to up their name recognition to be competitive. And the looming shadow of Trump still remains. But the field is starting to be set, and it is certainly one to watch in how it develops.