Pennsylvania's Democratic attorney general Josh Shapiro speaks to a crowd with the fountain at Point State Park behind him during his campaign launch address for Pennsylvania governor, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Josh Shapiro
Pennsylvania's Democratic attorney general Josh Shapiro speaks to a crowd with the fountain at Point State Park behind him during his campaign launch address for Pennsylvania governor, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

In a campaign kickoff speech in Pittsburgh, Shapiro said Republican candidates are “peddling the Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump and are “doing real damage to our democracy.”

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s Democratic attorney general announced his candidacy for governor Wednesday and sought to tie his Republican rivals to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn last year’s election.

Josh Shapiro is running unopposed in the Democratic primary so far, while the Republican field is crowded with state senators, business leaders, a former congressman, a former federal prosecutor under Trump, and others in what is expected to be a fiercely contested 2022 gubernatorial race.

In a campaign kickoff speech in Pittsburgh, Shapiro said Republican gubernatorial candidates are “peddling the Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump and are “doing real damage to our democracy.”

“They’re passing far-right litmus tests, and they’re pandering to the special interests,” he said.

The Republican Governors Association shot back that Shapiro would continue what it called the “failed policies” of the incumbent governor, Democrat Tom Wolf. It said Wolf’s COVID-19 pandemic policies have “endangered Pennsylvania seniors, crushed the economy, and left the Keystone State with an unemployment rate well above the national average.”

“It’s no wonder Shapiro is the Democrats’ hand-picked candidate, who else will carry on the failed policies that have left the commonwealth behind?” the Republicans’ statement said.

Wolf is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

The state is closely divided between the two major parties and the governor’s race is certain to be hard fought, as will the race to fill retiring Republican US Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat.

In a campaign video, Shapiro said Republican candidates “want to lead us down a dark path, undermine free and fair elections, strip away voting rights and permanently divide us.” The video showed images of the Capitol riot and a newspaper headline about GOP state lawmakers’ ongoing “forensic investigation” of last year’s presidential election. 

Shapiro’s office has gone to court to block a Republican-controlled Senate committee’s subpoena to state election officials.

In Pittsburgh, Shapiro touted his record as attorney general, highlighting his office’s battles with the Trump campaign after the 2020 election and his work to intervene in a dispute between two major healthcare providers, UMPC and Highmark.

His tenure also produced a groundbreaking grand jury report on child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, which he said revealed a “conspiracy and coverup that went from dioceses here in Pennsylvania all the way to the Vatican.”

Shapiro served as a state representative and chair of the Montgomery County commissioners board before winning election as the state’s top prosecutor in 2016 with no law enforcement background and little practical courtroom experience.

Shapiro, 48, was scheduled to hold a rally in his native Montgomery County later Wednesday and then embark on a statewide bus tour.