Pennsylvania Republicans have been battling with Gov. Tom Wolf since he unseated incumbent Tom Corbett in 2014. Many of them are eager to take Wolf’s place, but there is no clear frontrunner this early in the race. Several Republicans have already announced their bid, and a few others have hinted or shown interest in joining what is expected to be a crowded primary. Thus far, it’s hard to find a Republican candidate without some sort of ties to former President Donald Trump.
With a heated race to fill U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat next year, the GOP will have to be strategic about what candidates it wants to back for the Senate and for governor. Potential candidates will also have to weigh their options and decide where they fit best and can compete.
The already crowded field got even bigger this week with the addition of Guy Ciarrocchi. There are plenty of other names that could be added to this list in the coming months, but here is the most current iteration of potential Republican candidates for 2022.
Chester County Chamber CEO Guy Ciarrocchi
The economy is the top priority for Guy Ciarrocchi, who has served as president and CEO of the main trade group for Chester County businesses since 2014. He brings both policy and financial experience to the field, having spent time as a top official in former Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, as well as the chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, U.S Rep. Jim Gerlach and state Sen. Melissa Hart. A South Philadelphia native, Ciarrocchi said he’d like to overhaul the Department of Labor and to focus on education reform and school choice.
Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain
McSwain, a former Trump-appointed prosecutor in Philadelphia, officially announced his intent to run for governor Monday. As a U.S. attorney, he would often exchange blows with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner, claiming they were soft on crime. McSwain resigned from his position just before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, but made headlines in July when he claimed Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, told him not to investigate claims of voter fraud. Like most Republicans, he has repeatedly criticized Wolf for his COVID-19 response. The 2020 election and pandemic response will continue to be major talking points throughout his first run for public office.
Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta
Barletta’s political career began in his hometown of Hazelton, where he went from city councilman to mayor. He then made his way to Washington, winning the U.S. House of Representatives race for Pennsylvania’s 11th congressional district in 2010. His attempt to jump over to the Senate failed, however, as he lost to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in 2018. Looking to get back into Pennsylvania politics, Barletta announced his bid for governor earlier this week. A strong opponent of illegal immigration, Barletta was also a member of former President Donald Trump’s transition team in 2016.
Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale
Gale was the first Republican to formally announce his candidacy for governor back in February. An avid Trump supporter, he has criticized the Pennsylvania GOP and pledged to be a conservative populist. He’s also caught attention for calling the Black Lives Matter Movement a hate group and saying Trump’s presidency was sabotaged.
Former Corry Mayor Jason Monn
Monn, a former council member and mayor of Corry, announced that he will seek the Republican nomination last month. The owner of Fat Monn’s Grub restaurant, Monn has been a vocal opponent of Wolf and his COVID restrictions. He sees himself as a political outsider standing up for small businesses and the people most affected by the pandemic closures. He even gained publicity during the initial closures for selling $1 kids meals and donating to children in need. He’s focusing on being the “common Monn” on the ballot.
Pittsburgh attorney Jason Richey
Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Richey announced his candidacy for governor last week. Like many of his fellow candidates, the partner at Pittsburgh's K&L Gates law firm said he decided to run after Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions took away peoples’ freedoms and hurt the economy. His “Contract with Pennsylvanians” outlines his plans to shrink government spending in order to reduce taxes, increase transparency, and bring more jobs to the Commonwealth.
Dr. Nche Zama
Zama is another candidate that announced his bid for governor late last week. A well-known cardiothoracic surgeon, Zama is based in East Stroudsburg, Monroe County, and focused much of his announcement speech on his work as a humanitarian and skilled surgeon. He claims that for too long, Pennsylvania has been “sick” and that Harrisburg has been too broken to properly support its economy and education and health care systems. Although his announcement was shared on the Monroe County Republican Committee Facebook page, City & State PA was unable to verify his party affiliation.
A longtime conservative activist, Gerow threw his hat into the ring this week. Formally announcing his candidacy Thursday, Gerow is another Republican hopeful with a history in Harrisburg. He runs a communications and marketing firm near the Capitol, and has appeared as a political commentator on public affairs shows in central Pennsylvania for years. Looking to set himself apart from other conservatives, Gerow said his top priorities include allowing ballot initiatives sponsored by voters, and allowing voters to recall a governor.
A Hempfield Republican with a “Never Socialist” tagline, Ventre is another gubernatorial candidate leaning heavily into Trump’s messaging. Ventre, who came in third in the Republican primary for Westmoreland County Commissioner in 2019, is a retired UPS security and public affairs executive and has previously served as a state director of the Mutual UFO Network, an organization that investigates suspected sightings of unidentified flying objects. His campaign site emphasizes he is “Pro-GOD, Pro-GUN, Pro-LIFE, Pro-CONSTITUTION, and Pro-FREEDOM.” He wants to “Make PA Great Again” by reducing the size of the legislature, decreasing business taxes and prosecuting “cancel culture” as harassment.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano
Sen. Doug Mastriano, representing Franklin County, unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 before winning a special election for the 33rd senatorial district in 2019. He’s been a vocal Trump advocate throughout his time in Harrisburg, even helping organize bus rides for supporters to join him in Washington for the January 6 protests. He claims he did not participate in the rally once it turned violent, but has continued to keep ties with the former president. Mastriano revealed recently that Trump asked him to run for governor and stated that he would support Mastriano’s campaign.
State Sen. Dan Laughlin
Laughlin is another state senator that has confirmed interest in running for governor. A contractor coming from Erie, he’s considered more of a moderate Republican. Laughlin unseated an incumbent Democrat in 2016 to get his state senate seat. He’s also made moves recently to introduce more bipartisan legislation, including proposals to increase the minimum wage and to legalize adult-use cannabis. If he does decide to run, he’ll likely be the centrist candidate for any Republicans that aren’t pro-Trump.
U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser
Congressmen Meuser has shown interest in running for governor, but would have to face off against the man he succeeded in the U.S. House: Barletta. Prior to his political career, Meuser was an executive at Pride Mobility Products. He lost the race for the 10th congressional district in 2008 before serving as the head of the Department of Revenue under former Gov. Tom Corbett. He was then successful in 2018, winning the U.S. House race for the 9th congressional district. Meuser has also been supportive of Trump, including joining U.S. House Republicans in December supporting the Texas lawsuit that contested the presidential election in Pennsylvania.
State Sen. Scott Martin
Martin announced last week he is forming an exploratory committee to run for the Republican nomination for governor. A former county commissioner, Martin is in his second term as a state senator representing the 13th district. He is a lifelong Lancaster County resident, having graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School and Millersville University before representing the area. He currently serves as chair of the Senate Education Committee and has been a staunch advocate for school choice and expanding tax credit scholarship programs.