Lower taxes, school choice, local control: GOP field for Pa. governor makes its pitch

Written by on January 7, 2022

Lower taxes, school choice, local control: GOP field for Pa. governor makes its pitch

By Katie Meyer / Keystone Crossroads
January 7, 2022

The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. (Photo | Matt Rourke/AP)

A sprawling cast of Republican candidates for Pennsylvania governor met for the first debate of the 2022 election season Wednesday, delving into such topics as school choice, energy production, election conspiracies, and how to make homemade backyard biofuel.

The debate, hosted at Dickinson College in Carlisle and sponsored and moderated by several conservative Pennsylvania groups, featured 13 candidates — a few who are expected to be formidable in the GOP primary, and many who are considered longshots.

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In order of their appearance in the debate, they are:

–   John Ventre, a former UPS executive and UFO researcher from Westmoreland County.

–   Charlie Gerow, a longtime Republican strategist, and frequent commentator from Harrisburg.

–   Bill McSwain, the former Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania’s eastern district.

–   Nche Zama, an accomplished Poconos-based heart surgeon born in Cameroon.

–   Jason Richey, an Allegheny County attorney with massive law firm K&L Gates.

–   Dave White, owner of a large Delaware County plumbing and HVAC company and member of the Steamfitters Local 420.

–   Jason Monn, who owns the pizza restaurant Fat Monn’s Grub in Erie County.

–   Guy Ciarrocchi, the former CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry.

–   Joe Gale, a Montgomery County commissioner.

–   Melissa Hart, the Allegheny County-based former congresswoman and state senator.

–   Scott Martin, who represents Lancaster’s 13th District in the state Senate, and was previously a county commissioner.

–   Shawn Berger, who owns an industrial cleaning company and a seafood restaurant in Monroe and Northampton counties, respectively.

–   Jake Corman, who as Senate President Pro Tempore is currently Pennsylvania’s most powerful Republican, and who has represented Centre County in the chamber since 1999.

Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who has also announced a run for governor, declined to participate, saying he didn’t plan to debate until candidates had qualified for the ballot.

Another likely candidate, State Sen. Doug Mastriano, hasn’t officially announced his campaign yet, but has said he plans to do so later this week.

The debate’s moderators were former Chester County GOP State Rep. Becky Corbin, Allison Coccia of the Pa. Chamber of Business and Industry, and Terry Tracy, who heads the news and commentary outlet Broad + Liberty.

Among all the candidates participating in Wednesday’s debate, a few beliefs were taken as given: that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf bungled the commonwealth’s COVID-19 response by imposing business closures and mask mandates, that Pennsylvania needs to reduce regulations on businesses, and that natural gas drilling must be a centerpiece of the economy.

Other broadly popular proposals included local control when it comes to COVID-19 mitigation measures — though many candidates also said they opposed school districts’ decisions not to open due to the omicron surge — and lower corporate net income, personal income, and gasoline taxes.

A few candidates tried to take pragmatic approaches. Hart, for instance, noted that she has previously been elected in Democratic-majority districts and touted her ability to “reach across party lines.” Zama urged his fellow Republicans not to take overly extreme positions because “the eagle only flies if it has two wings.”

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