Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, long considered to be the Democratic frontrunner in next year’s race for governor, officially launched his campaign Wednesday to succeed Gov. Tom Wolf.
Shapiro, 48, who lives in Abington, touted his record as attorney general and pitched himself as a fighter not afraid to take on powerful companies and institutions.
“I think we all know that Pennsylvanians need a governor who will take on the powerful and be on their side because as a commonwealth we’re facing some serious challenges right now,” he said Wednesday at a campaign announcement in Pittsburgh.
When allies of President Donald Trump challenged the results of the state’s 2020 election, the attorney general’s office defended the right to vote, Shapiro told supporters. He vowed to strengthen voter intimidation laws and improve the mail-in ballot process.
He also pointed to an AG investigation of six Catholic dioceses which revealed hundreds of priests who allegedly committed sexual offenses against children and his role in stabilizing Montgomery County’s finances when he led their board of commissioners.
If a Republican is elected as governor, Pennsylvania is susceptible to stricter abortion and voting laws, similar to those passed in some southern states, he warned the audience.
“If they come for your voting rights, if they come for your reproductive rights, if they come after your right to organize, I won’t hesitate to use that veto pen to protect you,” he said.
GOP candidate Lou Barletta, a former Congressman and Hazleton mayor, linked Shapiro to coronavirus-related lockdowns and school closures and blamed him and Wolf for the increase in homicides in Philadelphia.
“Josh Shapiro is beholden to the same radical, leftist groups that have a grip on Democrats in Washington, D.C., and would be a disaster as governor of Pennsylvania,” Barletta said in a statement.
Former U.S. Attorney William McSwain, another Republican gubernatorial candidate, characterized Shapiro as “a career politician who supports higher taxes, bigger government, more regulation, less freedom and lawlessness.”
Shapiro addressed his GOP opponents, though not by name, saying they are more focused on promoting Trump-related conspiracy theories than addressing real problems.
He is the lone Democrat in the governor’s race, compared to a crowded Republican field that also includes GOP strategist Charlie Gerow and Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, among others.
Several more Republican state legislators are also reportedly mulling a run to replace Wolf, who is term-limited.
Pennsylvania is traditionally a battleground state, and the Cook Political Report rates the 2022 gubernatorial election as a toss-up.
Later Wednesday, after the Metro went to print, Shapiro held a kickoff rally at Penn State Abington. He is scheduled to begin a campaign bus tour Thursday by meeting with Black clergy leaders at Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia.
Prior to being elected attorney general in 2016 (and re-elected last year), Shapiro served as a county commissioner and state representative in Montgomery County.