Delaware Valley candidates swept first place in all three contests in the first GOP straw poll of 2022, held Saturday in Camp Hill by the Republican State Committee’s Central Caucus.
Delegates picked Montgomery County businessman Jeff Bartos as their first choice to replace U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is not seeking reelection. Dave White, a self-declared “worker guy” business owner and former Delaware County councilman, came in first for governor.
Clarice Schillinger, an Ambler resident and leader in the push to re-open Pennsylvania classrooms, received the nod for lieutenant governor.
A straw poll is a gathering of regional party leaders and activists. Five more will be held around the state before the May 17 primary. Some 104 of 114 members voted at the Central Caucus.
Kathy Barnette, of Huntington Valley, author and Fox News commentator, came in second in the Senate race, well ahead of hedge-fund millionaire David McCormick and former ambassador Carla Sands.
In the governor’s race, Bill McSwain, a West Chester native and former U.S. Attorney for southeastern Pennsylvania, came in second. Interestingly, Lou Barletta, a former congressman who has led in statewide polls, placed third.
“I’m deeply humbled by the support we have received from the activists that move our party forward. Our campaign is building a movement driven by everyday Pennsylvanians who want a brighter future for Main Streets in every corner of the commonwealth,” said Bartos. “I’m thrilled to receive such strong support from my fellow Pennsylvanians.”
“I am honored to win this afternoon’s PAGOP Central Caucus straw poll,” said White. “Since announcing our campaign just two months ago, we have crisscrossed our great commonwealth, bringing our positive message of fighting for hardworking families to communities large and small of every corner of Pennsylvania. My commitment to the voters of Pennsylvania is that we will bring less talk and more action to Harrisburg and turn around our commonwealth that Tom Wolf has decimated.”
Three state senators who are gubernatorial candidates–Sen. President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre), Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) and Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) came in at the middle of the pack. Political insiders note they all supported Act 77, an election law that expanded mail-in ballot and state influence in elections. It is an unpopular vote among the GOP base.
Schillinger, the lieutenant governor poll winner, said, “I am humbled to have earned the support of Central Caucus. I understand that nothing is given and I will continue to work hard to earn the support of every Pennsylvanian.
“Together, we will take back our commonwealth and make our state an attractive place to raise a family where children receive a world-class education, businesses want to move and stay in the commonwealth because we eliminate lockdowns and mandates, and communities are safe with men and woman in blue who are supported with the resources they need,” she added.
The candidates gave their pitches to the audience taking part in the straw poll and answered questions before the vote was taken.
Two political science professors told DVJournal they do not believe straw polls carry much weight.
“While the results give the winning candidates something to talk about and fundraise on, straw polls don’t tell us much of anything about how we should expect the primaries to turn out because we don’t know how well these views reflect the views of the entire state committee, for one, and, more importantly, the Republican primary electorate,” said Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College. Yost noted that “a straw poll of conservative leaders last year had Sean Parnell and Doug Mastriano as the preferred candidates for Senate and governor, so these results need to be considered in relation to the makeup of the group that is doing the voting.”
Parnell, an author and veteran who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, dropped out of the 2022 Senate race amidst allegations by his estranged wife in a messy divorce case. And Mastriano, who only recently began his official campaign for governor, finished SSaturday’sstraw poll.
“The straw poll results are of limited importance,” said Christopher P. Borick, Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “Some candidates work hard to do well in these polls, while others ignore them completely. Thus, they often reflect the dynamics of a particular event and have very little predictive value.” And Borick also downplayed any significance of the caucus voting not to endorse any of the candidates.
“I’m not sure what percentage of the time they endorse, but it certainly isn’t a given,” said Borick. “sometimes they pass when there is not a clear favorite. With the very crowded fields, that may be the case.”