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

With current Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf unable to run due to term limits, the governor seat is up for grabs.

As Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf nears his term limit, the door to the governor’s house in Harrisburg is wide open.

It is a race that has enormous implications for people in every corner of Pennsylvania. 

With veto power and the ability to appoint judges and fill other vacancies in the state government, the governor has often been the last line of defense against policies that are detrimental to democracy in the commonwealth.

With a Republican majority in the state Legislature, if the GOP wins back the governor’s seat, they stand a better chance of enacting conservative policies that would restrict reproductive rights and voting rights. 

The list of Republicans who have announced their candidacy for governor is in the double digits. The myriad of candidates include current and former state lawmakers, a former Congressman, a former federal prosecutor, business owners, and even a heart surgeon. 

On the other side of the aisle, one lone Democrat faces a seemingly easy primary before battling it out to be the leader of the Keystone State. 

Here are all the candidates who have officially announced their bid for governor of Pennsylvania.

Democratic Candidate

Josh Shapiro

Josh Shapiro, 48, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary so far. The Montgomery County resident has had a long political career: He has served as a state representative, chairperson of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, and state attorney general. 

Shapiro fought former President Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election and continues to fight Republicans’ efforts to gain access to 9 million Pennsylvanians’ personal information for an election audit. 

In his campaign kickoff speech, Shapiro said Republican gubernatorial candidates are “peddling the Big Lie” about the 2020 presidential election results and are “doing real damage to our democracy.”

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.” 

Shapiro is a vocal supporter of reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, raising the minimum wage, and legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.

Republican Candidates

Lou Barletta

Lou Barletta, 65, is a former Hazleton mayor and four-term member of Congress. 

Barletta was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump in 2016’s Republican presidential primary. He went on to serve as Trump’s campaign co-chairperson in the commonwealth that year and on Trump’s transition team before becoming one of the former president’s biggest allies on Capitol Hill.

Barletta ran for US Senate in 2018 at Trump’s urging, but struggled to gain traction with voters, raise money, or attract outside help.

Barletta supports Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and continues to spread lies about the 2020 election. 

Barletta said that, if elected governor, he would focus on improving the state’s tax climate, relaxing regulations, and streamlining permitting processes. Barletta also supports fracking.

Barletta wants to rewrite the state’s election laws. He said he would support strengthened voter ID requirements and legislation that outlines a process to verify ballot signatures.

Barletta wants to restrict reproductive rights, is anti-LGBTQ, and is against the legalization of recreational marijuana. He does support a minimal increase in the minimum wage.

Lou Barletta, Laura Ellsworth
This Oct. 26, 2018, file photo shows Lou Barletta in the studio of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Shawn Berger

Shawn Berger, 38, is a business owner from Palmerton, Carbon County. Berger owns two businesses, American Environmental Services, an industrial vacuum truck company in Gilbert, and the American Lobster restaurant in Wind Gap.

Berger kept his restaurant open throughout the pandemic and was an opponent of Wolf’s COVID mitigation mandates. 

According to his campaign site, he is focused on upgrading the state’s infrastructure and allowing parents to choose what school their child attends.

He also wants to decrease the income tax, and revoke the property and luxury taxes.

Berger wants to make adoption easier for all, make changes to the foster care system, keep birth control accessible, and create stricter penalties for sexual offenders. 

Berger wants to keep medical marijuana legal and decrease penalties for recreational use but hasn’t gone as far as saying he supports legalization.

Guy Ciarrocchi

Guy Ciarrocchi, 56, of Paoli, is president of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry and has served in that capacity since 2014. Prior to that, he served as Chief of Staff to former Lt. Governor Jim Cawley, former Congressman Jim Gerlach, and former state Sen. Melissa Hart.

Under former President George W. Bush, Ciarrocchi served as a regional director of HUD and was the 2004 campaign manager of the Bush-Cheney re-election committee in Pennsylvania.

Ciarrocchi opposes raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. He proposes changing the unemployment system by eliminating things like the additional $300 in benefits that ended in September. 

He wants to reduce the state’s corporate taxes to encourage businesses to relocate to the commonwealth. 

He wants to allow parents to move their child (and their tax dollars) to a school district of their choice.

Ciarrocchi said he would support legislation that restricts reproductive rights, but has not been clear about how much he would restrict them.

Jake Corman

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) is one of two state lawmakers on the GOP’s long list of candidates.

Corman, 57, has served in the chamber since 1999 after taking over the seat his father held. “Someone who comes from the Legislature, who understands the Legislature, can work with the Legislature to get good things accomplished is something that we need,” Corman said. “I think we’re tired of the gridlock and the back-and-forth between the two.”

Corman has opposed many of Wolf’s pandemic policies, and challenged the authority of the acting state health secretary to mandate masks inside schools and childcare facilities.

Corman has defended what the Senate GOP calls a “forensic investigation” into the 2020 election results and has said he would rework the entire election code if elected governor. He has said he accepts the 2020 election results but said an investigation is still necessary because the Department of State’s actions in 2020 “deserve more scrutiny.”

Corman has supported legislation restricting access to abortion care in Pennsylvania but has not said whether he would sign such legislation into law if elected governor.

Corman said he is open to raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, but thinks $15 an hour is too much. He has not suggested a specific amount.

He opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Jake Corman
In this Sept. 15, 2021 file photo, state senator Jake Corman (R-Centre), speaks during a Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee hearing at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Joe Gale

Joe Gale, 31, is a Montgomery County commissioner first elected in 2015. 

Gale is a loyal Trump supporter. He was formally censured by his fellow Montgomery County commissioners when he labeled Black Lives Matter a “radical left-wing hate group.”

As governor, Gale said, his top priorities would be repealing the Pennsylvania law that allows any registered voter to vote by mail for any reason, and helping primary challengers to oust Republicans he considers insufficiently conservative.

Gale supports restrictive reproductive legislation, such as a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Gale also opposes raising the minimum wage, LGBTQ rights, and the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Charlie Gerow

A longtime conservative activist, Charlie Gerow, 66, runs a communications and marketing firm in Harrisburg.

If elected governor, Gerow has pledged to get the state Legislature to amend the state constitution to allow ballot initiatives sponsored by voters “to get their voices heard when the Legislature doesn’t act or when the governor stonewalls them.”

He also wants to amend the state constitution to allow voters to recall a governor “who thinks he or she is a king,” a not-so veiled reference to conservative dismay over the executive authority wielded by Wolf during the pandemic.

Gerow supports efforts by Republican lawmakers to hold hearings on election integrity and to overhaul aspects of the state’s election law.

Gerow supports fracking.

If elected governor, Gerow said he would sign a law to make abortion illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detected. 

This is Gerow’s first statewide campaign after running unsuccessfully for Congress and the state Legislature in the past.

Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart, 59, is the only female GOP candidate. She was a member of the US House from 2001 to 2007. Prior to federal office, she served in the state Senate from 1991 to 2001. 

While other Republican candidates tout their support of Trump, Hart campaigned for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016.

The resident of McCandless, Allegheny County, is an attorney and is currently a consultant for Hergenroeder Rega Ewing & Kenney, LLC in Pittsburgh.

Scott Martin

State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) is the other state senator running for governor.

Martin, 49, is a former Lancaster County commissioner and was first elected to the state Senate in 2016. He is the chairperson of the Senate Education Committee.

Martin “fully” supports a partisan audit of the 2020 election and was one of almost 100 state lawmakers who signed letters attempting to overturn the state’s general presidential election results.

He supports increased funding for schools and wants to allow parents to send their child to the school of their choice.

As a state senator, Martin has backed Republican efforts to restrict reproductive rights, voting in support of a bill that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, a bill that would ban abortion in the case of a Down syndrome diagnosis, and a bill that would require the burial of remains of a fetus lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, or abortion. He has said he would sign anti-abortion legislation if he is elected governor.

Martin has voted against LGBTQ rights and recognition, voting to block a resolution earlier this year that would have designated Feb. 15 as “Love is Love Day.” 

Originally, Martin said he opposed any minimum wage increase. Yet, he voted for Senate Bill 79 in 2019, which would have incrementally raised the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour. 

Martin opposes legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.

Doug Mastriano

State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) is a retired Army colonel who served 30 years of active duty. The 58-year-old Fayetteville resident was first elected to the state Legislature in 2019. During his time in office, he has voiced his opposition to abortions, mask mandates, and COVID lockdowns. 

State Democrats called for his resignation last year after he organized bus trips to and attended the Trump rally that led to the insurrection. 

Mastriano has been an outspoken supporter of Trump and said the former president asked him to run for governor last May. 

Mastriano launched a “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election last July. Corman removed him from leading the investigation after disputes over how to run it. He continues to promote Trump’s lies about the election and has pushed for the results to be overturned.

Mastriano introduced a bill in 2021 that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, roughly six weeks into a pregnancy. 

He has supported legislation that would have made it legal for adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Mastriano is opposed to raising the minimum wage.

Mastriano is also against legalizing recreational marijuana. He has publicly criticized Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for displaying marijuana flags at the state Capitol building.

Doug Mastriano
In this Nov. 25, 2020, file photo, state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) attends a hearing of the Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Policy Committee in Gettysburg. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Bill McSwain

Bill McSwain, a 52-year-old Chester County resident, was the top federal prosecutor in Philadelphia for three years under former Trump. He has sought Trump’s endorsement for his campaign.

McSwain supports stricter voting regulations, such as voter ID.

McSwain said he would sign legislation restricting reproductive rights if he were elected governor.

Jason Monn

Jason Monn, 42, is a restaurant owner and former mayor of Corry, Erie County. He describes himself as a family and community-oriented “ordinary” man who understands the “struggle of the everyday Pennsylvanian.” 

He said the COVID-19 pandemic showed him how much power the government has over small businesses after Wolf mandated a statewide shutdown in 2020 as the disease spread. Monn said he wants to change that. 

Jason Richey

Jason Richey, 49, is a partner in K&L Gates law firm in Pittsburgh and an Allegheny County resident. He is running for governor because he believes Pennsylvania needs an outsider—such as himself who has no political experience—to come in and “shake” things up.

As governor, Richey said he would reduce the size of the state government and the legislature, and cut taxes to spur economic growth.

Richey said the state’s corporate tax and gas tax, both recognized as the second-highest in the country, are obstacles to growth, as are the income tax and property tax. 

Richey is anti-choice but has said he would not enact Texas-style restrictions on abortion rights unless the Supreme Court gives the green light to do so.

He is against legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Dave White

Dave White, 60, is a former Delaware County councilman and owner of DWD Mechanical Contractor, Inc., a plumbing and HVAC firm. He is a third-generation union steamfitter and employs union steamfitters, plumbers, and sheet metal workers.

White is a Trump supporter. He has said he believes Pennsylvania needs “an outsider” in the governor’s office.

White has put $2 million of his own cash into his campaign.

John Ventre

John Ventre, 64, is a Hempfield, Westmoreland County, resident and a retired UPS security and public affairs executive. He previously served as a state director of the Mutual UFO Network, an organization that investigates suspected sightings of UFOs. 

Ventre ran for Westmoreland County Commissioner in 2019, coming in third in the Republican primary.

Ventre is a proud Trump supporter who has funded a billboard to show his support for the former president. 

As governor, Ventre said, he wants to reduce the size of the state Legislature, reduce business taxes with a two-tier system, eliminate yearly vehicle registration fees, reduce turnpike tolls by 30%, increase the sales tax to 6.5%, repeal Act 77 (the law that allows no-excuse mail-in voting among other elections reforms), and prosecute “cancel culture” as harassment. 

Nche Zama

Nche Zama, 65, is a heart surgeon who lives in the Poconos. He is a newcomer to politics.

In a news release announcing his candidacy, Zama said his experience leading teams in the surgical field would work well in the world of government.

Zama is anti-choice, but has not specifically explained his stance on reproductive rights.