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Will DelVal Benefit From Josh Shapiro’s Governorship?

With Abington native Josh Shapiro ascending to the governor’s office in January, will his governorship bring more jobs, appointments, political power, and fewer potholes to the Delaware Valley?

The Delaware Valley Journal asked local leaders and pundits to weigh in.

Democratic consultant PJ Rooney said it is human nature to care the most about the area you’re from and want to do well by it. So, he thinks the Delaware Valley could benefit from Shapiro’s tenure as governor.

Previous governors looked out for their home bases, he said.

“Gov. (Bob) Casey took good care of Scranton,” he said. “Gov. (Tom) Ridge took good care of Erie.”

Meanwhile, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh “aren’t bashful.”  The state’s two biggest cities will press their cases for state aid. But perhaps Norristown may get some more help than it otherwise might have.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” said Rooney. “It’s human nature. To the winner goes the spoils.”

Others took a more diplomatic approach.

“The diverse regions of Pennsylvania are part of what makes our commonwealth such a wonderful place to live and grow. Josh Shapiro, being from Southeastern Pennsylvania, knows our area very well, but he also understands the value of each region of Pennsylvania, as well as the challenges they face, which is why I think he will make an excellent governor,” said Bucks County Commissioners Chair Bob Harvie.

And Monica Taylor, Ph.D., Delaware County Council chair, said, “Josh Shapiro’s strong background in local government, his knowledge of the needs of Pennsylvania communities, and his dedication towards advocacy will benefit all Pennsylvania residents, including those in the Delaware Valley region.”

“Having a governor who is not only familiar with the Delaware Valley region but who obviously cares for it is certainly a plus for us, but I know that as governor, Josh cares about the entire commonwealth and will serve the residents of Pennsylvania with dignity, respect, and compassion,” said Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioners’ chair.

Laura Manion, MPA president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, said Shapiro “understands the Delaware Valley region, and I’m sure his time in county and state government has led him to recognize how important the Southeast region is as an economic driver for the commonwealth.”

“The Chamber was excited to see Gov. Shapiro’s comments on the campaign trail to further decrease the Corporate Net Income Tax (CNIT), and we look forward to continuing to advocate for a further decrease to attract and retain companies who will invest in Pennsylvania.

“Shapiro’s experience and focus on economic development as a (Montgomery) County commissioner here in the Southeast seemingly led him to call for the reduction of bureaucratic red tape and more investment in economic development to attract and retain businesses.

Charlie O’Neill, a Republican political consultant, said, “Gov.-elect Shapiro has taken notable steps to reach out to all corners of Pennsylvania, from a Western Pennsylvania running mate to his campaign announcement in Pittsburgh and his inaugural committee makeup. He might be more visible in the Southeast than (Gov. Tom) Wolf was, but I don’t anticipate he’ll forget the rest of 62 counties outside his home base.”

Manion added, “We look forward to working with Gov. Shapiro, the state Legislature, and our CCCBI members on bipartisan solutions to make the commonwealth more business friendly. I welcome any opportunity to work with Gov.-elect Shapiro on further changes to the state tax structure to foster competitiveness, fairness, and simplicity towards a goal of stimulating economic growth and other items in Harrisburg, such as the need to address the unfunded liability in state pension systems, streamlined regulatory system and permitting process and increasing energy production.”

Shapiro’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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Historic GOP Primary Leaves Senate Outcome Uncertain

This may be a Pennsylvania primary for the history books—at least for Republicans.

For Democrats, their election results matched the polls, with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman handily winning the Senate nomination, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro unchallenged in the governor’s race.

For Republicans, it was a different story.

Trump-backed state Sen. Doug Mastriano won with a commanding lead in the crowded field of seven in the governor’s race. President Donald  Trump’s choice for the Senate nomination, Dr. Mehmet Oz, remained statistically tied with Dave McCormick, a hedge fund CEO as of Wednesday morning. Kathy Barnette, author and Fox News commentator, surged toward the end of the race but came up short.

“As for the Senate race, Barnette’s strong finish took a toll on Oz and helped create the extremely tight race that has not played out. If Oz does prevail it certainly will be the product of Trump’s intervention and give the former president a major victory,” said Christopher P. Borick, professor of political science and director, Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

Richard Booker, a former Radnor Township commissioner and school board member who remains active in Republican politics, said, “Twenty-two thousand mail-in ballots in Lancaster County will need to be counted – and those could benefit McCormick. Also, statewide about 8 percent of the ballots remain to be counted. It is obvious, that the complex and cumbersome paper ballot system in Pennsylvania is not a panacea to make election procedures transparent as promised.  The change to paper ballots has to be one of the worst changes implemented by the legislature this century.”

Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife, Lisa, walking to vote.

Jeff Jubelirer, a political consultant, said the GOP Senate results might not be known for a few weeks if a recount is needed.

“The news cycle will focus on the race, thus potentially helping take some of the focus off of John Fetterman’s health, which is clearly an issue that will be ‘on the ballot’ come November without a clearer understanding of the lieutenant governor’s condition.”

Fetterman suffered a stroke last Friday.

“Regardless of who emerges, the general election will be competitive and the Trump factor will weigh heavily again. Unlike with Mastriano, however, expect either Dr. Oz or McCormick to maneuver at least a little more to the center to try and capture swing voters and disenchanted Democrats who would be apt to split their ticket and go with them and Shapiro.”

Jubelirer says he also believes Fetterman’s victory shows a progressives trend among Democrats.

“They chose a more progressive path by convincingly supporting Fetterman, thus setting up what looks to be a very competitive general election matchup with whoever emerges on the GOP side,” said Jubelirer. “The fact that Fetterman overwhelmingly won despite receiving sparse support from fellow Democratic officeholders shows the electorate was not persuaded that a more moderate candidate like Connor Lamb was the right direction to go. Perhaps that is a response to what I am sure many feel right now about the direction of the country and the lack of action on meaningful Democratic issues in Congress and from the Biden administration.”

Daylin Leach, a former Democratic state senator, said, “The results of this year’s U.S. Senate primary were reflective, in a somewhat less intense way, of trends we’ve been seeing around the country for several years. Specifically, our nation is becoming increasingly ideological and tribal. As we become more politically divided, we demand more purity from our candidates and become less tolerant of deviation from the chosen line.”

“I say ‘chosen line,’ because in the case of the Republicans, it’s not really the Republican ‘party line’ that matters. It’s loyalty and fealty to one single personality. If Donald Trump is opposed to…say free trade, a GOP candidate had better be opposed to free trade, regardless of what Republicans have historically been for. The same is true with acknowledging the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential elections, which most Republican candidates were extremely reluctant to do.”

Dave and Dina McCormick walking to vote in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, “the Democratic side is not operating on a cult of personality. But Connor Lamb still struggled to gain traction because he wasn’t considered pure enough. I had numerous people tell me they couldn’t support him because he was “way too conservative”, despite the fact that he is pro-choice, supports ending the filibuster, supports Build Back Better, etc., and had a very mainstream Democratic voting record in Congress. This sort of ideological rigidity would have made it extremely difficult for a Bob Casey to be nominated if he were running for the first time today. While I personally am actually more on the left side of the Democratic Party, I do worry that our increasing polarization will lead to more governmental dysfunction going forward. And that’s the last thing we need.”

In the Republican race for governor, former Congressman Lou Barletta came in a distant second to the Mastriano juggernaut.

“Doug Mastriano’s victory wasn’t a big surprise, but even with candidates dropping out, he still failed to garner a majority of the vote,” said GOP consultant Charlie O’Neill. “He will still need to prove to 55 percent of Republicans why they should feel comfortable with him in the fall, as well as independents and moderate Democrats. Mastriano’s victory speech addressed a concern many have raised, his ability to fundraise against Josh Shapiro’s 10-plus million dollar war chest. His proclamation that money doesn’t win elections will certainly be put to the test.”

Borick said, “Mastriano offered voters a hyper-MAGA alternative that allowed him to dominate among that key group in the Republican electorate. His full-blown culture warrior status is not a natural fit in a Pennsylvania general election, but he has a cycle that is great for the GOP and if economic issues like inflation remain troubling in the fall he could ride a wave that allows him to be quite competitive with Shapiro.”

Republican strategist Craig Snyder, who briefly threw his hat in the ring for governor, said, “America’s singular and long splendid political system — most notably its ability for improving and self-correcting overtime — was born in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania primary elections may have just seen that system break.

“In the GOP gubernatorial and Democratic Senatorial contests, clowns and crazies carried the day–a ‘Christian Nationalist’ and a ‘socialist’ in Ben Franklin’s shoes. As for the Senate race, “it is perfectly clear that nearly all the voters endorsed insurrectionist lies about the 2020 presidential election.

“It all shows how a two-party system, plus closed and winner take all primary elections, plus the damnable egos of many who seek office for the wrong reasons, plus the learned disdain for politics among the great majority of our people, all add up to giving vastly disproportionate power and representation to a relative handful of the angriest among us,” he said.

Jubelirer said Mastriano’s win “sets up a difficult predicament for the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and for Republican fundraising groups (e.g. Republican Governors Association) moving forward. Do they bite their lip and fully support Mastriano despite trying to take him down in the primary? Do they stay ‘out of it,’ so to speak, thus putting all their chips in the U.S. Senate race and not potentially anger swing voters who could make the difference in that contest? Or do they go ‘all in’ and risk angering more moderate Republicans and swing voters who appear to be more inclined to generally support Republicans in 2022?

“The results of the election prove that Trump (or at least Trumpism) is still alive and well in the Pennsylvania GOP. While Trump’s endorsement came late and was negligible to the outcome, it still shows the power of his message and base. The challenge for Mastriano now is how does he expand his coalition?”

“His first opportunity was an abject failure–using his victory speech to outline far-right priorities he’d tackle on day one of his administration–priorities that I believe are not shared by the majority of Pennsylvanians,” Jubelirer added.

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Races to Watch in the Delaware Valley as Primary Voters Go to the Polls

The primary is here, and that means that Pennsylvanians will soon know who’s squaring off in November’s contests for U.S. Senate, governor and lieutenant governor.

Josh Shapiro, unopposed on the Democrats’ side, is guaranteed a matchup against one of seven Republicans battling it out for the party’s nod.

The field slimmed down with the exits of state Senate leader Jake Corman and Melissa Hart. Doug Mastriano, a far-right senator from Franklin County, is the gubernatorial frontrunner. Republicans, concerned he will hurt the ticket in November, have been working behind the scenes to unite the party behind former Congressman Lou Barletta. Both Corman and Hart have endorsed Barletta, and the influential conservative group, Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, pulled its support from former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain to back Barletta as well.

Delco’s Dave White remains in the race as well.

Will the party’s efforts be enough to stop Mastriano, who hopes to have cemented a win by picking up the endorsement of former President Donald Trump?

The Senate races feature seven Republicans hoping to replace the retiring Sen. Pat Toomey. The GOP field includes celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and the surging conservative activist Kathy Barnette on the Republican side, along with hedge fund CEO David McCormick.

There’s a four-person race on the Democratic side that includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who recently suffered a stroke, along with U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Kenyatta has been a fierce critic of Fetterman, calling him “f—ing Batman,” over an incident in which Fetterman, while serving as mayor of Braddock, engaged in an armed confrontation with a Black man jogging in his community.

While most eyes are fixed on those races, here’s a look at some of the contested races in the Delaware Valley region:

In Chester County, four Republicans – Guy Ciarrocchi, Steve Fanelli, Regina Mauro, and Ron Vogel – are battling for the right to take on incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep Chrissy Houlahan, an Air Force veteran first elected to the Sixth Congressional District seat in 2018.

Cast by her opponents as “Pelosi Democrat” in the bag for Biden, Houlihan is still favored heading into the general election in a district tending to lean slightly blue.

In Bucks County, Alex Entin and Brian Fitzpatrick are squaring off on the GOP side for the 1st Congressional District seat. The winner faces off against Democrat Ashley Ehasz.

Entin of Northampton Township is a procurement specialist and first-generation immigrant from the Republic of Moldova while Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent and has staked out a reputation as a moderate Republican since first entering office in 2017. Fitzpatrick raised more than $3 million, while his opponent had just under $15,000 in his campaign coffers through the final days of April.

Republican voters will also decide between small business owner Bernie Sauer of Newtown Borough and marketing professional Jennifer Spillane in the GOP race in the 31st House District.

Whoever wins faces incumbent Perry Warren in the general election.

In Montgomery County, the 4th Congressional District GOP primary is between executive Christian Nascimento and small business owner Daniel Burton Jr. They’re looking to unseat Democrat incumbent Rep. Madeleine Dean in the fall.

And in Delaware County David Galluch is running for Congress to challenge incumbent Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon. Galluch is a Navy veteran, where he was an ordinance specialist who is trained in economics.


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FLOWERS: Charlie Gerow Brings Hope to GOP Governor’s Race

I just finished a consultation with a young woman from El Salvador who was fleeing the rampant violence in her country. Without revealing any confidential information, that young woman suffered more than anyone should be forced to undergo in 19 brief years on this earth. And yet, she had hope that we could offer her a better life.

“Hope” is a very special thing, and something in which this country specializes. “Hope,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, is the thing “with feathers” that keeps us soaring in the moments when our feet are filled with lead. Hope, as my mother used to say, is the last thing to die.

Charlie Gerow has made his gubernatorial campaign about hope. To the veterans of political campaigns, that might sound naïve. To angry voters divided by culture wars and suspicion, that might sound foolish. To me, it hits the perfect note. Charlie is one of many in a crowded primary, and he isn’t at the head of a fractious pack. But perhaps that’s a good thing because it’s given him an opportunity to cross this beautiful commonwealth and not worry about endorsements, angering famous politicians, triggering media pushback, or pushing the wrong buttons of Pennsylvanians who are tired of the mess created by Tom Wolf and his coterie of incompetent Democrats.

I sat down with Charlie the other day to talk about everything from unborn babies to marijuana as we enter this last, frenetic phase of the primary. I’d been at his campaign launch last year, followed his progress through the primary and the debates, and wanted to see what kind of a mark this crazy political season had made on a man who-in my opinion-is the only GOP candidate who can pull together a coalition to beat Josh Shapiro. It was a candid conversation, as any chat between two lifetime Pennsylvanians would be.

My first question was whether his months of campaigning had changed his mind about any issues that were central to his platform and policies, and he stated they hadn’t. It came with this caveat: “I haven’t changed any of my positions, but I’ve expanded some. For example, I’m developing a plan to put 1,000 more police officers on the streets of Philadelphia to protect people and public safety. I’ve also proposed that we require graduating high school students to pass a citizenship test, similar to the one that naturalized citizens take.”

Every Philadelphian reading this should support Charlie’s push for more police officers. The Democrats floated the ridiculous idea that we should defund the police, before realizing that was a dead-end message, and that not even their base could support this dereliction of duty and concern for the average, law-abiding citizen. As far as the citizenship test, that would go a long way to reminding American children that they are not racist, they are not sexist, they are not evil, and they belong to the greatest country on earth. Immigrants should not be the only ones obligated to fully understand the nature and grandeur of our history. As Charlie noted, “Teaching old-fashioned civics is a great way around the CRT and transgender sports nonsense our kids are being indoctrinated with.”

The first time I met Charlie was at a pro-life rally in Harrisburg. He spoke at the rally, and talked about his devotion to the pro-life movement. It’s personal for him, as he’s explained numerous times on the campaign trail. Charlie was born to a single mother in Brazil who couldn’t take care of him. She did the most honorable and painful thing a mother can do: Give her child up for adoption so that he could have a better life. As a result of that selfless generosity, he’s enjoyed a life that would have been unimaginable had he remained in the slums of Brazil.

When I asked him about the recently-leaked Dobbs decision, Charlie asked, “If we won’t fight to defend the most defenseless, our unborn children, for whom will we fight?” This candidate would provide a stark contrast to Democrat Shapiro who believes abortion should be legal up until the ninth month.

Almost as controversial as abortion is the issue of legalized marijuana. Pennsylvania has not gotten to the point where non-medicinal pot is legal in the commonwealth, but it appears there is some momentum for legalizing cannabis. I am strongly opposed to legalization, and asked Charlie why he mentioned at a recent debate that he’d sign a bill making it legal to smoke pot. He responded: “It was a debate, and I was given 30 seconds to answer. I’ve made it clear that I’m not pushing for decriminalization or legalization. The bill I referenced is being pushed by my state senator, a Republican with background in law enforcement. He sees it as both inevitable, and an issue of regulation and taxation.” An honest, pragmatic answer.

Of all the candidates out there on my side of the aisle, it’s clear that Charlie Gerow is the only one who can build a coalition of the willing, the unified, and the hopeful. Given his years of public service and dedication to the state, I hope he gets that opportunity.


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FLOWERS: Leaked SCOTUS Decision Moves Abortion Debate From Courts to Voters

I’m aware that not everyone is as concerned with abortion as I am. In fact, abortion falls fairly low on the list of “important issues” when voters are in the process of considering candidates. Only people like me, who are profoundly pro-life, or those who are extreme in their support of abortion rights, focus on it.  In that ironic and bizarre way, I have more in common with the head of Planned Parenthood than the vast majority of Americans have with either of us.

But what happened Monday evening was seismic, and its impact is felt by everyone, including those who are more concerned with when or whether Joel Embiid is reactivated to play against the Miami Heat.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, as seems likely based on the leak of Justice Alito’s draft majority opinion, abortion will not disappear.  It will simply cease to be a federal right, left to the states to legislate and regulate.  That’s the way it was until 1973, and even though I think it should be completely banned (exception: to save the mother’s life), that’s the way it should be in a democracy.  Most Americans are comfortable with some limits on abortion, and if they live in a state that has those limits and they still want to end their pregnancy, they can travel to a more hospitable jurisdiction.

But after almost 50 years of legalized abortion, some people have gotten the idea that it’s a constitutional, unassailable right. They talk about “super precedents,” and “right to choose,” and “reproductive justice,” and all of these empty phrases that sound nice in campaign ads but that really add up to this: We want what we have gotten used to, unlimited autonomy when it comes to pregnancy.

And that’s where it gets interesting. If Roe falls and the states take control of abortion, the people who make the laws in those states will have an enormous amount of power. And in Pennsylvania, we have two crucial elections looming, which will determine whether our next governor is likely to sign or veto pro-life legislation and whether our next senator will vote to codify abortion rights in federal law.

At the outset, I don’t expect most Pennsylvanians agree with me that abortion should be criminalized except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger. You don’t have to tell me that my view is to the right of many Republicans and even a lot of run-of-the-mill conservatives. I can’t even get an “amen” from most of my Catholic friends, not to mention some high-profile priests like Jesuit James Martin. But at the very least, most Americans think there should be some significant limits on the procedure, depending upon the circumstances of the pregnancy.

When I helped moderate a debate of Republican senatorial candidates for the Delaware Valley Journal last month, I asked the four local candidates, Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, George Bocchetto, and Sean Gale, what their views were on abortion. Gale was the most overtly passionate stating, “It’s truly a stain on this country, which is why I’ll be the most pro-life senator in the U.S. Senate.” Barnette mentioned her own origins story, revealing that she was a child of rape, and noted, “Based on my experience, I truly believe that life begins at conception, and I will make sure to fight for that when I’m in the Senate.” Bartos took aim at the Democrats currently in Congress observing, “When you have 47 Democrats who voted for legislation on late-term abortion, they will have to answer many questions come election time this November.” And George Bocchetto, who grew up in an orphanage in New York stated that “I wouldn’t be here today if Roe v. Wade were law during my birth, which is why I’m forever grateful that I could survive and thrive the way I did.”

Those were personal answers, deeply felt, and fairly representative of the GOP position on abortion. Contrast that with the Democrat candidates for the Senate. When asked at a recent debate if there were any limits on abortion that he would find appropriate, John Fetterman replied, “I don’t believe so, no.”  He then doubled down, declaring that he wanted to codify Roe into statutory law to essentially frustrate the Supreme Court. Conor Lamb, Fetterman’s “moderate” opponent has gone on record saying, “I think that the right to choose is a right all the way through pregnancy.”

“All the way through pregnancy” is shorthand for late-term abortion. The comments were in response to a question about the Women’s Health Protection Act, and whether he would be able to support any restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. Apparently, he can’t.

As far as the gubernatorial race, every Republican candidate has come out as being pro-life, even if some like Charlie Gerow are more vocal than others. De facto Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro has made no secret that he strongly supports abortion, including late-term abortion.

It takes a lot to come out and say that a woman should be able to have an abortion whenever she wants.  There is something particularly ghoulish in a person who thinks that abortion is “okay” and should not be barred at any moment before the crowning of the baby’s head. And I find it particularly ironic that the type of woman who thinks men can’t have an opinion on abortion is perfectly happy with these men, and these opinions.

If your primary concern this election cycle is something other than abortion, I understand where you might actually spend the next few weeks and months examining the candidates’ platforms and positions. But what happened Monday night changed the whole landscape.

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Green Party Candidate Digiulio Decries ‘Corporate Party’ Candidate Shapiro on Energy Policy

As an anti-fossil-fuel activist, Christina “PK” Digiulio has worked side by side with politicians like state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery County) and state Reps. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Upper Uwchlan) and Rep. Dianne Herrin (D-West Chester). Now she is hoping her political allies will stand by her as the Green Party candidate for governor.

“I agree with the Green Party’s Ten Key Values,” Digiulio told Delaware Valley Journal (DVJ). “I especially like that the Green Party first called for a ban on fracking for gas in 2008, when it was instituted by a Democratic governor in Pennsylvania, (and) the Green Party provides a contrast with the gubernatorial candidates from the two corporate parties, who have remained silent about our fossil fuel problems, specifically the health and environmental impacts.”

Digiulio has been a fixture in the fight against the now-completed Mariner East pipeline, an outspoken ally of Democrats like Friel Otten who used the pipeline issue to launch her political career. Like Muth and Friel Otten, Digiulio still wants the pipeline shut down and opposes increased Pennsylvania energy production even as gas and hone heating prices soar.

“I want it to stop,” she told NPR. “I know too many people who have been harmed, so let’s just stop this.”

Digiulio, who holds a BA from Lock Haven University and once worked as an analytical chemist for the Department of Defense, has never run for office before. But she has been active on the ground. “Most of my time within the election season was spent in the field, touring candidates, and having them meet the impacted residents I advocate for, in order to hear their stories, from their perspective,” said Digiulio. “These candidates were from all parties and all levels of government: Green, Libertarian, Republican and Democrat.”

She says the major party candidates are not taking any actual risks in order to protect the health and safety of the people.

“We are grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters, and regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics,” said Digiulio. “Government must be part of the solution, but when it’s controlled by the 1 percent, it’s part of the problem. The longer we wait for change, the harder it gets.”

Digiulio’s fellow “advocates” Muth and Otten declined to respond to requests for comment about her candidacy.

The likely Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, includes climate change and the environment among his priorities. But Digiulio has expressed disappointment in his handling of the Mariner East pipeline.

“I am appreciative that Josh Shapiro addresses these topics. However, the solutions for a just transition are not clear or are lacking some key issues,” said Digiulio. “It seems familiar to me, another centrist position or a compromise with the [fossil fuel] industry lobby.”

Shapiro has criticized Gov. Tom Wolf’s push to get Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), saying it is not clear RGGI will address climate change while protecting energy jobs and ensuring affordable power.

“We need to take real action to address climate change, protect and create energy jobs and ensure Pennsylvania has reliable, affordable, and clean power for the long term,” Shapiro said in a statement in October 2021. “As governor, I will implement an energy strategy which passes that test, and it’s not clear to me that RGGI does.”

Digiulio said actions speak louder than words.

“I and other community watchdogs have spent the last 5-6 years documenting this on the Mariner East pipeline for plastics project,” said Digiulio. “[Shapiro’s] position is not enough, his action is what we must look at, (and) I wonder if he sees compromising or settling with a serial offender of human rights violations, environmental violations, and our state and federal laws, as bringing justice to the harmed?”

Digiulio questions what Shapiro was doing in his time as attorney general.

“Did he ever realize that he needed more data in order to do his duty, aka protecting the impacted people of Pennsylvania and the environment?” said Digiulio. “For example, some ideas I know are available: a groundwater impact study, full-scale hydrogeological studies, or maybe look into a forensic geologist? Leaving the people to defend for themselves (data-wise) against two entities which have a history of poor behavior and lots of money, still places people with much less money and resources, against a Goliath.”

Digiulio added Shapiro “seems to be playing a political goal of pleasing voters with an environmental perspective while at the same time pleasing the industry by settling outside of court against the will of impacted residents.”

The Shapiro campaign rejected Digiulio’s criticism.

“Throughout his entire career, Josh Shapiro has worked to defend Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and pure water,” spokesperson Will Simons told DVJ. “As governor, he will continue that work by investing in clean energy and clean transportation, adopting (the) 2020 grand jury report recommendations to minimize health hazards arising from fracking, capping orphaned oil and gas wells, and addressing lead contamination in order to keep protecting Pennsylvania’s environment.”

Pointing to his time as a state representative, the campaign said Shapiro fought hard for passage of the Pennsylvania Energy Independence Fund, a $650 million spending package aimed at developing the commonwealth’s alternative energy industry and addressing the rising cost of utilities.

“As attorney general, Shapiro took on the Trump administration to halt their rollback of environmental regulations — including winning a court ruling that required the U.S. Department of Energy to issue national energy efficiency standards after the Trump administration refused to implement the standards,” said the Shapiro campaign. ”Shapiro also issued a grand jury report on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s failure to protect the public’s health from the effects of fracking.”

Shapiro is the only Democrat currently running for governor. Nine Republicans have filed paperwork to run. The primary is May 17.

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DelVal Candidates Dominate Straw Poll

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.

Dave White

“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.

Clarice Schillinger

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.”


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13 GOP Candidates Pack Stage in First Gubernatorial Debate

Twelve Republican men and one woman, vying to be their party’s nominee for governor, debated on a crowded stage at Dickinson College in Carlisle Wednesday evening. And as big as the debate field was, at least two other candidates didn’t attend.

It was the first chance for the baker’s dozen to make the case for their candidacy to Republican voters. Former Congressman Lou Barletta, who is leading in the polls, was a no-show. State Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County is expected to formally enter the race Saturday.

The mostly collegial affair showed the contenders agree on many big issues, such as reducing taxes and regulations; embracing the state’s fossil fuel industry as a way to bring good jobs and prosperity to the state; and improving education and school choice. The exception was criticism of the two sitting lawmakers for their votes for Act 77, which allowed mail-in ballots.

When asked about people leaving the state for opportunities elsewhere, West Chester native Bill McSwain, the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for southeastern Pennsylvania, played to his strong suit: law and order.

“We can’t be competitive without public safety,” said McSwain. “Because businesses simply aren’t going to invest in high crime areas…While I was U.S. Attorney I protected the community and its businesses by putting rioters and looters and arsonists in jail two summers ago when they tried to destroy Philadelphia…I am the only candidate in this race with law enforcement experience.”

McSwain also burnished his outsider credentials.

Guy Ciarrocchi

“We are never going to have change in Pennsylvania if we have a career politician as governor,” said McSwain. “And there are a number of career politicians on this state tonight. Instead, we need an outsider. Somebody who owes nothing to the Harrisburg swamp. That is who I am. I’ve run for office before. I’m a conservative outsider. I’ve lived a life of public service as a Marine and a prosecutor. I know how to get things done…The bigger our government, the less money people have to put in their pocket.”

Former Congresswoman Melissa Hart entered the race just days before the debate. She said the state has lost people, lost congressional seats, and lost clout in Washington, D.C.

“We have a bureaucracy that cares more about their sustenance than the people of Pennsylvania’s sustenance,” said Hart, of Bradford Woods. A lawyer, she promised to work with the legislature to change that and noted she has experience in both state and federal government.

Hart also agreed the state should use its natural gas, saying its production has helped the state’s farmers.

“Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel,” she said.

Hart promised to build coalitions to get things done, saying she was elected three times to the state Senate from a district with more Democrats, as well as to Congress, with Democratic voters’ support.

“What’s important is what their real concerns are,” she said. “Education is one.”

Later in the debate, Hart mentioned women have been the slowest to return to work from pandemic shutdowns because of school closures and uncertainty.

“We need to get teachers back in the classrooms,” she said, and “prevent our children from being used as pawns.”

She called for “responsive government” and “sensible laws.”

Guy Ciarrrocchi, a Chester County resident who grew up in South Philadelphia and is on leave from his job as president and CEO of the Chester Chamber of Business and Industry, summed up the state’s current situation.

“It’s as if Harrisburg has wanted us to fail,” he said. “We have more assets than any other state, from agriculture to life sciences. We’re sitting on more energy than most nations…There is no reason we’re not a top 10 state. We should never be a bottom 10 state…We should have a simple rule: if a bill creates jobs we’re for it. If kills jobs, we kill the bill.”

Pennsylvania is “sitting on more energy than most nations on the planet,” said Ciarrocchi. “We’re duty-bound to do it. We need to get it out of the ground and into our homes and schools, not just to attract businesses but to keep the businesses we do have.”

Ciarrocchi was part of a coalition of business people, parents, and residents who fought for the Vote Yes campaign in the 2021 primary to get ballot initiatives passed.

Charlie Gerow and Dave White

“We need school choice. I am a Chamber CEO who is passionate about education. We need to reform education,” Ciarrocchi said. “Education is the most important issue. Thousands of children are waiting on lists to go to charter schools and thousands of others are stuck in failing public schools.

“We need to bring about a coalition to bring about school choice. We need to rescue those kids and empower their parents,” he said.

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale blamed Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-majority legislature for the state’s population drain. He claimed to be the only candidate who can beat “radical liberal, Josh Shapiro,” the presumed Democratic candidate.

Gale agreed the state should use its energy resources and said tax money generated from fracking should stay in the regions where the gas is extracted and not go to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.

Gale said he is for voter identification and election reform, as well as school choice. “In my opinion, anyone that voted for the devastating Act 77 legislation should be disqualified from holding office, let alone being promoted to higher office,” said Gale. “We have to fix (the election system) and I’ll get it done.”

“I will be a pit bull in Harrisburg and hold the Republicans accountable to get the job done,” he added.

Retired business executive and author John Ventre joined in the criticism of Act 77, which was supported by two other Republicans in the race, state senators Jake Corman and Scott Martin.

Ventre criticized the politicians “who voted for Act 77 that cost the best president in my lifetime to lose Pennsylvania. There are three types of candidates: You have your politician who wants to advance himself and is an insider. You have your Romney RINO, who wants to negotiate with the left…The person that’s going to win this election is going to be a Tea Party Patriot.”

Ventre also blamed the state’s treatment of businesses for the population loss. “I want to hear a sucking sound from the northeast as jobs come to us,” the Hempfield resident said. “I want to make Pennsylvania the Texas of the northeast.”

Delaware County resident Dave White, a small business owner, and former county councilman said the state not only needs lower taxes and reduced regulation but also to shorten the time needed to get permits.

White agreed the state has a wealth of natural gas “under our feet” that should be utilized. As a former pipefitter who is now a business owner, he backs pipeline construction “as the safest way to have this product transported.”

“I will make sure we are the energy capital of the United States,” White said, noting that pipeline jobs pay $80,000, $90,000 or more.

“If you want to get things done, send somebody who is a results-oriented businessman to get things done,” said White.  “In (the legislature) they are spending other people’s money. They need to start acting like their own money.”  White promised to review regulations and departments and get rid of those that are not needed.

Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist based in Harrisburg, said that he is the one who can get things done.

“Economic competitiveness” will keep young people in Pennsylvania, he said. Gerow favors lower taxes and sensible regulation, along with “cleaning up public corruption because job creators are not coming to Pennsylvania with their opportunities if they believe they have to pay to play.”

Regarding Wolf’s handling of the pandemic, Gerow said he would model the policies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem that put individual freedom first, rather than the “disastrous policies of Tom Wolf.”

He would also propose a ballot measure to allow the voters to “remove any governor who thinks he’s a king.”

Dr. Nche Zama, a cardiothoracic surgeon from the Poconos, said Pennsylvania’s business tax policies are “suffocating businesses,” he said.  And the state which spends “billions on education was the largest exporter of graduates. We need to embrace those graduates so they stay here.”

Zama also supports using fossil fuels, saying, “Windmills, as we know them, are not ready to run our massive industries in Pennsylvania…” European countries have recently “ratcheted up their use of coal and gas.”

As a leader in the health care industry, “I know how to bring people together. I’ve done it in healthcare. A leader is somebody who absorbs uncertainty and somebody who inspires.”

“Pennsylvania needs a leader who is a compassionate critical thinker,” said Zama. “And I can be that person.”

Jason Richey, said the Pittsburgh area has seen “dramatic losses of population over the last 50 years.” The father of three sons, he said, “I want to keep those boys here.” He proposed a plan for zero percent income tax and shrinking the cost of government.

An energy and construction lawyer, Richey said he is an expert and the state sits on “an ocean of natural gas.”

His energy plan would create 50,000 new jobs, he said, and “get the whole commonwealth working together.” That would improve the environment and improve national security, he noted. He would also get rid of Act 77 and the 50 days of mail-in ballots.

Former Corry mayor Jason Monn, who owns a restaurant, said he has kept his employees working throughout the pandemic but there are “a lot of businesses that don’t love Pennsylvania because of our taxes, because of our regulations.”

“I am a firm believer it’s the government’s job to facilitate progress, not to dictate how to do it,” said Monn.

“As a business owner, I have a lot of what politicians don’t have, that’s common sense,” said Monn. “We need to learn to take safe risks. We can do things the proper way and not be ridiculous about them.” When pipeline workers have money they can then come to places like mine. It’s a trickle-down effect.”

During the pandemic, Monn and his wife came up with a plan to give free meals to kids. With the help of others, they distributed 31,000 meals in three months.

State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) noted the state’s “fastest-growing age demographic is 85 and above.” States like Florida and the Carolinas have “pro-growth policies” while “we have one of the most onerous regulatory and tax climates in the country.”

On the energy industry, Martin opposes Wolf’s plan to impose a “half-billion-dollar carbon tax” on the state and raise gas prices by 18 percent.

“The moment Pennsylvania decides to embrace and grow this industry, the better off we’ll be,” he said.

The state needs “courage and a bold agenda.” Martin was warned not to eliminate government agencies because he would not be elected again but he did and was reelected. The state teachers union has run ads against him, as well. If elected governor, he plans to work with the general assembly to devise a “pro-growth, pro-family” agenda.

Sen. Jake Corman

State Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) has three children who will soon make decisions about what to do with their lives and where to live.  He hopes to keep them in Pennsylvania.  But “this governor has used our tax money as a way to punish employers. I am going to use our tax code as a way to inspire growth.”

Regarding the pandemic, Corman said he worked with others in the legislature to rein in Wolf’s powers through ballot questions that voters approved, and he filed and won a case unanimously in the state Supreme Court against the Wolf administration over the ability of the state to impose mask mandates.

“Tom Wolf’s scorched earth is not the way to govern,” said Corman.

Asked about building a coalition, Corman said he is “there to get things done” and he would be a governor who can work with the legislature.

Another business owner, Shawn Berger said the state’s unemployment program is a problem.

“Get people back to work and cut unemployment,” said Berger, a Lehigh Valley businessman who owns two enterprises.

During the pandemic shutdowns “I had employees come to me in tears. I said, ‘We’re going to stay open. We’re going to make this work.” He fought the Wolf administration and kept his business open, he said.

And as a business owner, Berger said, he knows how to stay within his budget and not “overspend.”  Berger also favors the decriminalization of marijuana.


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PODCAST: Republican Dave White Says PA Needs ‘Blue Collar Outsider’ for Governor

On this edition of the Delaware Valley Journal podcast Dave White, a Delaware County businessman and former county council member, talks about why he’s running in the GOP primary for governor. White, a third-generation pipe-fitter, tells DVJ’s News Editor Linda Stein his career path — learning a trade, not attending college — is one Pennsylvania should support.

White also calls out Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner, and he pledges to support the state’s energy sector and the jobs it creates.

Hosted by Michael Graham.

Abington Native Josh Shapiro Holds Rally in Hometown Campaign Kick Off

About 200 supporters cheered and applauded Josh Shapiro at a campaign rally on the Penn State Abington campus Wednesday evening.

Earlier in the day, the state attorney general announced his candidacy in Pittsburgh and via video. In a speech that at least one observer likened to former President Barack Obama’s cadences and gestures, Shapiro touched on his campaign’s key points, including “change,” transparency, competency, social and environmental justice, and  promoting organized labor so that “every worker has the right to join a union.”

Shapiro, 48, said while serving as a state representative for Abington and Upper Dublin he “learned to be a voice for the people, knocking on 18,000 doors.”

“When I became the first Democrat to lead Montgomery County in 150 years, the county wasn’t working when we took over,” the former chair of the county Board of Commissioners continued. “Partisan bickering and budget scandals and massive budget deficits were holding us all back. But we didn’t listen to the people who said, ‘That’s the way it’s always been done.’ We rolled up our sleeves, we got to work, and we turned county government around. We not only put the county back on stable footing while we were in charge. We helped restore our AAA bond rating, fired the Wall Street money managers so we could save millions and protect the retirement of our seniors.”

As attorney general, Shapiro says he fought “the powerful and the well-connected.” He touted his grand jury investigation into the Catholic clergy and the church’s cover-up that brought some 300 pedophile priests to light and his litigation to obtain money from pharmaceutical companies that sold addictive opioid medication.

“I want you to know that I will stand up to anyone who abuses their position,” he said. “I will not back down from that fight.”

He also said he championed the people’s right to vote that “came under attack from the most powerful office on earth.”

“When they went to court to prevent our votes from being counted, we stopped them,” Shapiro said. “We stood up to their mobs and we won in court to protect the will of the people every single time…We will continue to protect the right of Pennsylvanians to vote.”

He also promised to help businesses grow and families “keep a roof over their heads.”

“Main streets matter in Pennsylvania,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro added he would make sure every child has access to a good education “no matter what ZIP code you live in,” and that everyone has access to physical and mental healthcare.

“As we just saw in this pandemic, when the people needed government’s help, often times they couldn’t get answers,” Shapiro went on, slamming the Democratic Wolf administration.  “Often times they couldn’t even get their phone calls returned. That is not okay and that will change.”

Shapiro pivoted to attack his Republican opponents, saying they are not focused on these “challenges.”

“Instead they’re peddling the ‘Big Lie,’ they’re passing far-right litmus tests, and they’re pandering, pandering out of a profound weakness,” Shapiro said. “The private personal information of nine million Pennsylvania voters, that’s what they’re up to…Not only are they doing real damage to our democracy but they’re holding us back from meeting this important moment.”

He promised to “repair our roads and bridges and connect every Pennsylvanian to the internet from Waynesburg to West Philly.” He said the state should use its “first-class universities” to become a center for research and innovation and promised to promote vocational education, as well.

“Let’s lead the way on energy because we shouldn’t have to choose between protecting our jobs and protecting our planet, that’s a false choice. We need to invest in clean energy and create jobs in Pa. We need to protect every Pennsylvanian’s constitutional right to clean air and pure water.”

Shapiro also pledged to bring people together and work across the aisle.

“I am sick and tired of hearing that we’re Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Alabama in the middle,” said Shapiro. “That is simply not true. That is not who we are.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow, a political consultant and business owner, called on Shapiro to resign from his post as attorney general.

“Josh Shapiro has never finished a job he asked the voters and taxpayers for and now he’s running for governor just months after being sworn in,” said Gerow. “Josh Shapiro must be honest with the taxpayers who pay his salary and admit that he has no interest in the job he asked for but wants to campaign for another office while staying on their payroll.  He should immediately resign as attorney general.”

Republican Bill McSwain, the former U.S. Attorney for southeastern Pennsylvania who is also running for governor said, “Josh Shapiro is a career politician who supports higher taxes, bigger government, more regulation, less freedom, and lawlessness. Dedicated to prioritizing his own career over the needs and desires of Pennsylvanians, Shapiro stands for the continuation of the same failed economic and public safety policies of liberal Governor Tom Wolf and would provide no new solutions to put Pa. on a path to prosperity.  Pennsylvanians deserve a governor who will put their needs first, and who views the office as an opportunity to enact positive change, not as a mechanism for his own professional advancement. It is time for a governor who will stand up and show up for our citizens, and I plan to be that governor.”

U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean

U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) was among those who introduced Shapiro to the crowd. She promised Shapiro would protect abortion rights.

“Josh knows we have to protect our democracy, our elections, and the fundamental right to vote,” she said, praising his defense of the 2020 election results. “That fight continues. That’s why we need Josh more than ever.”

“So much is at stake,” Dean said. “As John F. Kennedy said, ‘The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man (are) threatened.’ That’s true for you and me. The threats continue but the opportunity is right here in front of us. That’s why Pennsylvania needs and deserves Josh Shapiro to be the next governor.”

Several supporters spoke to the Delaware Valley Journal while awaiting Shapiro’s speech.

Abington resident Fran Earley said he has known Shapiro since he got into politics and finds him to be “focused.” “He has time for you and I find that important,” said Earley.

Marianne Gassman of Glenside called Shapiro “very fair-minded (and) terribly pragmatic. He’s just got a lot of common sense and he can work with both sides of the aisle.”

Ali Feldman

Blue Bell resident Beverly Hahn echoed Glassman and added, “He gets things done. He’s honest. He a real person. He’s authentic. He’s devoted his life to public service.”

Ali Feldman, of Ambler, who was wearing a “tax the rich” facemask said Shapiro is “driven” and “has integrity.”

“He fights for what’s right,” Feldman said. “He’ll build a better future for all of us.”