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Pa. governor’s race: A Republican group with $20 million is backing Bill McSwain

A political action committee affiliated with Commonwealth Partners reported having $20 million in cash as of late November – and the group’s CEO said “all of that money is at our disposal.”

Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain in September.
Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain in September.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

One of the most influential Republican groups in Pennsylvania politics has endorsed former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain for governor, a significant development in a GOP primary campaign that includes more than a dozen candidates.

The endorsement Thursday by Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs almost certainly means McSwain will have the financial resources to make a serious bid for the nomination. A political action committee affiliated with Commonwealth Partners reported having $20 million in cash as of late November — and the group’s CEO said “all of that money is at our disposal” in the race.

“We intend to win the May 17 primary,” Commonwealth Partners president and CEO Matt Brouillette said in an interview. “Of course, we hope that all the other candidates will focus on beating [state Attorney General] Josh Shapiro and make the case why they are the best to do that, so that we have the best opportunity to spend our resources in winning in November. But we’ve shown we know how to win races.”

The Commonwealth Partners PAC’s biggest source of cash is Jeffrey Yass, the Bala Cynwyd-based billionaire investor. In a state with no limits on contributions in statewide elections, Yass has donated millions of dollars over more than a decade supporting candidates and causes that favor school choice.

The group, which promotes free markets, helped the GOP retain its majorities in the legislature in 2020 and elect state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Brobson last year. It contributed $2 million to Brobson’s campaign, the most he received from any single donor.

Brouillette said it also is raising millions more from donors outside the state. “People recognize how important Pennsylvania is,” he said.

The endorsement of McSwain, he said, “is based upon who we believe will not only be able to win the election, but for us, it’s who will actually be able to govern and turn Pennsylvania around from being a state that’s losing population, losing congressmen, losing businesses, failing to improve our schools, rescuing kids that are trapped in violence and underperforming schools.”

McSwain, the top federal prosecutor in the Philadelphia region during the Trump administration, said he’s grateful for the endorsement.

“Together, driven by our shared priorities of a robust economy, public safety, school choice for all families, and a reinvigorated energy industry, we will work towards victory in November and a freer, safer, more prosperous Pennsylvania for years to come,” he said in a statement.

Campaigns must file their latest fund-raising reports by the end of January, offering an early glimpse into the candidates’ competitiveness. Candidates and outside groups are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars through the general election.

Other GOP candidates in the gubernatorial race include former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, State Sens. Doug Mastriano and Scott Martin, former Delaware County Councilman Dave White, former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, and former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry CEO Guy Ciarrocchi.

Shapiro is the only major candidate in the Democratic primary.