Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has made it clear he will not resign his office during his quest to become Pennsylvania’s 48th governor. But a chorus of Republican voices says he should, calling the decision by Shapiro, a Democrat, to remain in office during his campaign a conflict of interest.
One voice in that chorus is Bill McSwain, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination and who served as the U.S. Attorney for Southeastern Pennsylvania during the Trump administration.
In a Tweet published Thursday, McSwain cited historical precedent and noted that in 2010 the Philadelphia Inquirer called for then-Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican, to give up his office while running for governor.
McSwain’s Tweet said, “I’m calling on @PhillyInquirer to immediately ask for the resignation of AG @JoshShapiroPA, just as they did for Corbett in 2010. What do you say, Editorial Board? Still concerned about an AG mixing politics and law enforcement?”
In an editorial published on July 21, 2010, the Inquirer opined, “It’s nearly impossible lately for the public to separate Corbett’s law-enforcement duties from his role as the GOP nominee for governor. Increasingly, his actions as attorney general are tinged with political ramifications for the November election.”
The editorial continued, “As the independent and elected attorney general, Corbett is under no obligation to seek the governor’s approval. But this constitutional arrangement raises a question of whether the state’s chief executive should be left out of the loop on such big issues. When the players belong to opposing parties and the case is a hot-button issue in the upcoming election, it’s impossible not to view Corbett’s decision as driven partly by politics. And that undermines public support for the attorney general’s role.”
Corbett went on to defeat Democrat Dan Onorato in the general election. Democratic incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell was barred from seeking a third term, as is Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf today.
The Corbett and Shapiro scenarios differ in that Shapiro and incumbent Wolf are both Democrats.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow, a political consultant and business owner, has also called on Shapiro to resign as attorney general while campaigning for higher office.
“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.”
However, under Pennsylvania law, elected officials need not give up one office to run for another, although former Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner did resign in 2018 prior to his unsuccessful effort to thwart Wolf’s reelection bid.
Shapiro was elected attorney general in 2016 and was re-elected last year when he garnered more votes from Pennsylvanians than President Joe Biden. Shapiro recently announced he has amassed a war chest of more than $10 million.