Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman officially launched his campaign for governor on Tuesday, casting himself as an experienced legislator who would be a “people-first governor.”
“Over the last 18 months the freedoms of the people of Pennsylvania have been infringed upon,” Corman said in an interview. “I want to be a governor who makes sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Corman, 57, is the Senate’s highest-ranking member and has been in the Senate for 22 years during the terms of five different governors.
His initial announcement plans were scuttled last week after he contracted COVID-19, despite being vaccinated, so he announced his bid in a campaign video filmed in his hometown in Bellefonte, Centre County.
Corman joins a crowded field of GOP candidates in the race for the seat being vacated by Gov. Tom Wolf but is among the best known. Within recent weeks, State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) said he’s forming an exploratory committee and Dave White, a former member of Delaware County Council, launched his own campaign.
He said Tuesday he would not step down from his position as president pro tempore, despite the likelihood he may be running against fellow senators in the governor’s race.
“Nothing prevents me from serving the job and running for governor,” Corman said. “In a Republican primary, it’s a race among friends. Most people running, I know very well and they’re good people and we’ll go out and make our case to the people and see where the people go.”
The new jockeying comes amid broader signs of GOP strength in this month’s elections, as the party took the governor’s mansion in blue-leaning Virginia, almost knocked off New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, and won at least three out of four statewide judicial races in Pennsylvania. (One race remains too close to call.)
The field also includes former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, former Chester County Chamber of Commerce CEO Guy Ciarrocchi, attorney Jason Richey, political consultant Charlie Gerow, and Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale. Two other state senators — Dan Laughlin of Erie County and Scott Martin of Lancaster County — have announced committees to explore a run.
But a crowded and costly primary in the Keystone State could slow Republicans’ momentum heading into the midterm elections and strengthen the hand of state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who has amassed $10 million thus far with no sign of a primary challenger.
First elected in 1998 and the son of a state senator, Corman has long been seen as a part of the Senate GOP establishment. So he surprised some who know him when he came out in favor of an election review of the sort Trump had been demanding.
Corman ousted Mastriano as the chairman of the committee investigating the 2020 election. Asked about claims by some that was an effort to handicap a potential GOP rival in the governor’s race, Corman said: “I’ll just say this: The integrity of this investigation is paramount to me and I wanted to make sure it was done in that way.”
The so-called “forensic audit” is currently pending before a court after Senate Democrats sued to block the subpoenaing of voter records as part of the review. It’s likely to become a topic on the campaign trail.
The Democratic Governors Association was already highlighting it Tuesday in an email blasting Corman’s candidacy.
“Corman is championing issuing subpoenas to get the social security numbers of 9 million residents and giving them to inexperienced third-party contractors, threatening Pennsylvanians’ personal and financial privacy,” the statement said.
Corman said his hope is the investigation moves forward to inform new election laws and restore voter confidence.
“This is not re-litigating the 2020 election,” he said. “We do not have the authority to do that. This is about improving it moving forward.”
Staff writer Andrew Seidman contributed to this article.