Leading contenders for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s open governor’s office made big promises during Wednesday night’s debate about how they will speed up the economy and spend state money, as they were looking for an advantage in a huge field of nine.
Four of the nine candidates participated in the live primetime televised debate, spending part of the hour in WHTM-TV’s Harrisburg studio trying to establish an identity or advantage over a rival.
The four hit the polling threshold set by the station’s parent company as they vied for the nomination to succeed term-limited Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat. Five others did not reach the voting threshold.
The candidates were: Lou Barletta, GOP candidate for the US Senate in 2018 and former congressman known for his crusade against illegal immigration; State Senator Doug Mastriano, a right-wing political force in Pennsylvania who lobbied to void the 2020 presidential election; Bill McSwain, an attorney in private practice who served as the United States Attorney in Philadelphia under former President Donald Trump; and Dave White, who runs an $85 million-a-year plumbing and HVAC business and is a former Delaware County Councilman.
In addition to questions about taxes and the economy, the candidates agreed they would get rid of the state’s two-year no-apology absentee ballot law, which some Republicans blame for Trump’s 2020 election defeat. in the presidential battleground state.
They also said they would sign a “constitutional carry” law – removing the state’s requirement that gun owners obtain a county license to carry a concealed firearm in public. And they all said they would restrict or even ban abortion, if allowed by the US Supreme Court, differing only on possible exceptions. McSwain said he would maintain exceptions for rape, incest and mother’s life, while others would not.
Neither the state party nor Trump has endorsed the race, leaving the field all the more open. Two-term state attorney general Josh Shapiro does not face a challenger for the Democratic Party nomination.
But the huge field has stoked unease among some top Republicans that a toxic candidate could win with less than 30% of the vote in the May 17 primary election.
To that end, Mastriano was asked what he would say to voters worried about having “legal issues,” concerns that stem from the subpoena issued to him by the congressional committee investigating the case. on the January 6 insurrection.
“There are no legal issues,” Mastriano replied.
On spending, the candidates struggled to say — or didn’t say at all — how they would replace revenue if they cut the state gas tax. They pledged to reduce taxes and business regulations.
They also pledged to help bail out nursing homes, which said they had to close facilities due to inadequate Medicaid reimbursements, with the exception of Mastriano.
Instead, he turned the question to the baseless accusation that the Wolf administration is guilty of “returning the sick to the homes that killed at least 16,000 of our elderly people” during the pandemic.
Nationwide and in every state, recovering COVID-19 patients have been accepted by nursing homes, more than 250,000 in the 12 months through March 1, 2021, according to federal data.
No investigation or report has so far indicated that the policy was a cause of death or outbreak. On the contrary, research indicates that other factors — such as asymptomatic community spread — are driving factors in outbreaks of COVID-19 in homes.
Economically, they all promised to inaugurate more natural gas drilling in the country’s second gas state.
“We’re going to fracture,” White said, using the shorthand term for hydraulic fracturing, a key method for unlocking oil and gas from rock formations. “We’re going to push it forward. This will bring additional revenue to our state and grow our economy. High-paying six-figure jobs, 50,000 to 60,000, very quickly.
However, the industry already describes the drilling as solid and claims to have access to the gas it needs. Rather, it lacks elements that are difficult for a governor to achieve, such as large interstate pipelines and large customers — like liquefied natural gas processing facilities — to use it.
They also pledged to fix Pennsylvania’s economy, despite the fact that it has lagged for decades behind most of the rest of the country in employment rates, population growth and job creation rates. jobs as its legacy industries shrank.
“We shouldn’t be down,” McSwain said. “And that will only change if we have a conservative outsider, not more politicians as governor.”
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