Tuesday, January 31, 2023
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Pa.’s GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Square Off in Live Debate

'We shouldn’t be towards the bottom. And it’s only going to change if we have a conservative outsider, not more politicians as governor...'

(Headline USA) Leading candidates for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s open governor’s office made big promises in Wednesday night’s debate about how they’ll ramp up the economy and spend state dollars, as they competed for an edge in a huge nine-person field.

Four of the nine candidates appeared at the live-televised prime-time debate at the studio of WHTM-TV in Harrisburg.

The four met the polling threshold set by the station’s parent company as they vie for the nomination to succeed the term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.

The candidates were:

  • Lou Barletta, the GOP’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and a former congressman known for his crusade against illegal immigration
  • State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a force in Pennsylvania’s conservative politics who pushed to investigate vote fraud in the 2020 presidential election
  • Bill McSwain, a lawyer in private practice who was the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia under former President Donald Trump
  • Dave White, who runs an $85 million-a-year plumbing and HVAC firm and is a former Delaware County councilman.

In addition to questions on taxes and the economy, the candidates agreed that they would get rid of the state’s two-year-old no-excuse mail-in voting law, which Democrat officials illegally used during the 2020 race to secure an edge for Biden in the high-stakes battleground state.

They also said they would sign “constitutional carry” legislation—scrapping the state’s requirement that gunowners get a permit from the county to carry a concealed firearm in public.

And they all said they would restrict or even ban abortion if allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court, differing only on possible exceptions. McSwain said he would maintain exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, while the others would not.

Neither the state party nor Trump has endorsed anyone in the race, leaving the field that much more wide open. Two-term state Attorney General Josh Shapiro does not face a challenger for the Democrat nomination.

But the huge field has stoked unease among some top Republicans that a candidate could win with less than 30% of the vote in the May 17 primary election only to become a political liability in the general election.

Mastriano was asked what he would tell voters concerned that he has “legal issues,” worries that stem from the subpoena issued to him by House Democrats’ partisan Jan. 6 Commission.

“There are no legal issues,” Mastriano responded.

Much as it did with the now-debunked Russia hoax during the 2018 midterm, the Left is hoping to use Jan. 6 as a political canard and rallying cry in the upcoming campaigns to deflect from policy failures of their own making.

To that end, they have issued a raft of subpoenas with little evidentiary basis apart from hearsay in the hopes of finding something sufficiently damning to leak to the press. Already in the course of the fishing expedition, though, they have admitted to being less than truthful with the selective release of their findings.

On spending, the Pennsylvania GOP candidates struggled to say—or didn’t say at all—how they would replace revenue if they cut the state’s gas tax. They pledged to cut business taxes and regulations.

They also pledged to help bail out nursing homes, which have said they’re having to close facilities because of inadequate Medicaid reimbursements, except for Mastriano.

Instead, he turned the question to the accusation that the Wolf administration is guilty of “sending the sick back into the homes which have killed at least 16,000 of our elderly” during the pandemic.

Wolf was one of five blue-state governors implicated in the scandal—alongside former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gov. Gavin Cuomo of California and Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey.

All have faced either state investigations or close calls with political consequences due largely to their mishandling of the pandemic, except for Wolf.

On the economy, the Republican contenders all promised to usher in more natural gas drilling in the nation’s No. 2 gas state—undoing the damage caused by the Biden administration’s executive action.

“We will frack,” White said, using the shortened term for hydraulic fracturing, a critical method of unlocking oil and gas from rock formations. “We’ll get it going. That’ll bring additional revenue to our state and it’ll grow our economy. Great-paying, six-figure jobs, 50,000 to 60,000 of them, very quickly.”

They also vowed to turn around Pennsylvania’s economy, which has, for decades, lagged most of the rest of the nation in its employment rate, population growth and the rate of job creation as its legacy industries shrank.

“We shouldn’t be towards the bottom,” McSwain said. “And it’s only going to change if we have a conservative outsider, not more politicians as governor.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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