State Sen. Scott Martin jumped into the crowded race for Pennsylvania governor on Saturday. After a Facebook announcement, Martin took reporters’ questions via Zoom.
Asked what “secret sauce” he brings to the race that the other candidates in the GOP primary do not the Lancaster County Republican said he has been traveling the state and talking to voters for the last six months and wants to make “life easier for every Pennsylvanian.” He added that, as a former county commissioner who reduced the county debt by $40 million and state senator with 27 bills passed into law, he knows how to “make government work.”
“As a young athlete I learned the basics, put in the work, got better, and I became a state and national wrestling champion and NCAA All-American in football,” Martin said. “As a small business owner, I’ve put in the hours and the sweat to grow a company and hire other companies – all of that work creates jobs and grows the economy. As a senator, I helped author the legislation that resulted in the constitutional amendment that helps restore the balance of power to state government.”
Elected to the state Senate in 2016, Martin chairs the Education Committee and also sits on the Appropriations, Environmental Resources & Energy, and Judiciary committees.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” Martin said about education, where he favors giving parents a choice for their children’s schooling. For higher education, Martin noted, “Pennsylvania has some of the highest costs (for college) in the country” and that results in the “highest debt” for graduates. If elected, he plans to make higher education more affordable and is also favors vocational-technical education as an alternative to a four-year degree for many students. Employers are looking for people with the types of skills taught in technical schools like Lancaster’s Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Martin said.
And making sure the workforce has the skills employers need can “turn around the demographics” of people leaving the state to find jobs, which cost Pennsylvania a congressional seat in the last census and decreased the state’s congressional clout.
“We need these folks to stay here,” said Martin.
Asked about Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s unilateral move to take the state into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon-trading plan that will likely lead to higher energy costs, Martin said he would end that membership.
He pointed to Glen Younkin, the newly-elected Republican governor of Virginia, who has promised to take his state out of RGGI. And unlike some other states involved in RGGI, Pennsylvania is “an energy powerhouse” that the PJM grid relies on, Martin noted. RGGI would decimate the energy sector causing Pennsylvania to lose those “family-sustaining” jobs to neighboring states like West Virginia, as well as residents and businesses seeing energy costs rise 18 percent, said Martin, who voted against RGGI in September.
On the campaign trail, Martin said people he has talked with are interested in local rather than national issues. They are concerned about public safety, education, and “making ends meet,” he said.
Martin pointed to his small business background, saying the state has too many regulations that make it unfriendly to start-up businesses. Martin and his wife, Amber, own Woo-Cat Management LLC, a property management company. Amber Martin is also the Lancaster County treasurer.
For example, when Martin was a county commissioner Lancaster competed and succeeded in the competition to bring in Perdue ArgiBusiness to build a $60 million soybean extraction plant. However, the Department of State “put them through eight years” of intense regulatory scrutiny that nearly cost the county that plant, he said.
He pointed to other examples of state overregulation, such as the U.S. Steel site, where that corporation canceled a $1.5 billion project in May.
The energy sector in Pennsylvania is losing out to West Virginia and the Gulf Coast, he said. Manufacturing in the state is “critically important,” as is the energy to run those factories, he said.
Asked about changes to voting in the state and Act 77, which permitted mail-in ballots, Martin said he would like to see it implemented as passed, with security provisions.
“It should be easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he said. Not fixing the election system “feeds into a lot of folks’ distrust” of it. For example, he cited different counties that used different rules during the 2020 election and the Secretary of State’s “favoritism on grants” as flaws.
Martin said the case that the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard regarding abortion will not change his stance on that issue. He remains staunchly pro-life and wrote a law to protect unborn babies with Down syndrome. And even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, that would only send abortion regulation back to the states, he said. Martin is one of seven children and is the father of four.
With Wolf ineligible to serve a third term, the only Democrat running so far is Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
However, a plethora of Republicans is vying for the GOP nomination. They include former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain; GOP strategist Charlie Gerow; former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry CEP Guy Ciarrocchi; Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman and business owner; former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta; Montgomery Commissioner Joe Gale; state Sen. Pro Tempore Jake Corman; Pittsburgh attorney Jason Richey; and surgeon Dr. Nche Zama. And others said to be about to take the plunge include former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart and state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
“It is unprecedented, but not unexpected,” said Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy and Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College. Yost predicted the free-for-all in his May newsletter.
“These open seats are the best ways for ambitious politicians to take the next steps in their political careers,” he said.
“It is really difficult to characterize anyone’s chances in such a crowded contest,” said Yost. “The more people who run the smaller the share of the vote that is needed to win, so unless someone with overwhelming name recognition and fundraising advantages enters the race I wouldn’t be surprised by any outcome.”
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