Pa. governor’s race in 2022 drawing curiosity from many on either side

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Pa. governor's race in 2022 drawing interest from many on both sides

J.D. Prose
 |  USA TODAY Network PA State Capitol Bureau
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Pennsylvania Governor calls Trump move ‘simply disgraceful’

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says a lawsuit filed by President Trump’s campaign to stop counting of ballots in the state is “simply wrong.” (Nov. 4)

As jockeying begins in Pennsylvania for a U.S. Senate seat race in 2022, there is also plenty of speculation about who might be running for governor that same year when Gov. Tom Wolf finishes his second term.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, announced a few months ago that he would not be running for re-election, and then surprised many people by adding that he would not run for governor, either.

That revelation fired up the rumor mill on possible contenders, especially on the Republican side. “It just seems so wide open,” said Christopher Borick, a professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

Some of the names bandied about as potential Senate candidates — such as state Sen. Jake Corman of Centre County, the new Senate President Pro Tempore — have also been mentioned as gubernatorial contenders.

Other current officials mentioned as possible candidates for governor include U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16, Butler County; state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington County; state Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster County; and state Sen. Mike Regan, R-York County.

More: Toomey’s Senate seat: Crowded field on both sides as contenders jockey to run in 2022

More: Feisty Pa. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s profile exploding in post-election media appearances

Another name that has shot to the top of the list for the GOP is state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin County, whose media profile, particularly among conservative outlets, has risen in the aftermath of the Senate Majority Policy Committee meeting he oversaw before Thanksgiving in Gettysburg in which Rudy Giuliani and others shared unproven accusations and conspiracy theories about the state’s election.

Few of those in the audience, testifying or on the Senate panel, wore masks during the meeting, and Mastriano was told later that day during a White House meeting with Trump that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Giuliani was hospitalized after also testing positive for the virus.

On Monday, Mastriano sent a letter to Wolf demanding that the governor call a special session of the General Assembly to review the election. The legislative session ended Nov. 30.

Pittsburgh area Democratic strategist Mike Mikus said Mastriano seems to be “aggressively angling” for a gubernatorial run by echoing Trump’s election fraud allegations that appeal to the president’s base, which could be a strong component in a statewide GOP primary.

The prospective field isn’t as crowded on the Democratic side, but it’s no less intriguing.

It is widely thought that state Attorney General Josh Shapiro will run for governor, but Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who finished third in the 2016 U.S. Senate Democratic primary with 19.5%, has said he is considering running for Senate or governor.

Mikus called Shapiro the “prohibitive favorite” to be the Democratic candidate for governor after recently winning re-election with 51% of the vote and a 307,000 margin. As attorney general, Shapiro can maintain a high profile across the state with investigations and indictments, Mikus said.

“That just gives him an advantage early on,” Mikus said.

Fetterman, though, has enjoyed a bump in media interest with post-election cable TV appearances and flattering coverage from the likes of Rolling Stone and GQ.

And, Fetterman nurtures a solid social media presence, frequently sharing posts skewering failed Republican efforts to overturn the state’s election results and championing legalized marijuana with his 257,000 Twitter followers.

Although Fetterman is viewed as progressive, Mikus said another progressive candidate could emerge from the left wing of the party. Many on the party’s left are clamoring for more diversity among Democratic statewide candidates and lobbying for more women and minorities to jump into statewide races.

Mikus said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has also been rumored as a potential governor candidate, but noted that October clashes between protesters and police after officers shot and killed a Black man suffering a mental health crisis “could complicate (Kenney’s) ability to win a Democratic primary.”

By early 2021, Mikus said, would-be governor candidates on both sides should be shoring up bases and fundraising — if not publicly announcing their candidacy.

“You can’t sit back and allow other candidates to start reaching out to the various leaders and activists,” he said. “You’ve got to start locking up support early.”

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