Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain has formed a political committee blasting Gov. Tom Wolf’s leadership and vowing to “explore conservative ideas to renew Pennsylvania,” his most significant step yet toward a run for governor next year.
The committee, dubbed Freedom PA and formally created in Harrisburg last week, gives McSwain a vehicle to raise campaign cash and promote his political profile now that he’s out of public office but eyeing a campaign in 2022.
While the move stops short of formally announcing a run, McSwain, 52, has been talking to key Pennsylvania Republicans for weeks about a potential bid. His PAC’s new website, launched Monday, makes his ambitions clear two months after his stint as the top federal prosecutor in Philadelphia ended.
The PAC’s focus on state issues also makes clear that if he runs, McSwain plans to seek the GOP nomination for governor, and not the open U.S. Senate seat that’s also up for grabs next year.
“In the 7 years that Tom Wolf has been Governor, Pennsylvania has gone backwards,” reads the opening line describing the political committee’s mission.
It accuses Wolf of imposing “centralized, oppressive big government.” And seizing on conservative anger over the governor’s coronavirus response, it argues that “our freedoms have been violated” by “executive actions that shut down our economy.” (Those restrictions have since been loosened.)
McSwain, an ex-Marine and Harvard Law School graduate from West Chester, calls for allowing Pennsylvanians to “harness” the state’s natural resources — a clear reference to fracking — expanding school choice, reducing taxes and regulations, “and promoting public safety, instead of far-left policies that put criminals first.”
The federal government’s top law enforcement official for the Philadelphia region under President Donald Trump, McSwain is one of a number of Republicans considering a run for governor. They include former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a staunch Trump ally; U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser; and State Sen. Doug Mastriano. Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale has already launched a campaign.
McSwain was appointed by Trump and used his perch to make himself one of the most outspoken and public critics of the city’s most progressive policies on law enforcement, engaging in long-running battles with District Attorney Larry Krasner. He emphasizes those clashes on the new website, which cites his appointment by Trump but otherwise makes no direct references to the former president.
Wolf is term-limited after winning reelection in 2018. Both the gubernatorial and Senate races are expected to be fiercely competitive after President Joe Biden narrowly beat Trump in the state last year. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is widely seen as the early Democratic front-runner in the governor’s race.
During last year’s widespread protests against systemic racism and police brutality, McSwain forcefully defended law enforcement — and his site boasts that “he put rioters, looters and arsonists in Philadelphia in jail during the summer 2020 civil unrest,” while accusing Krasner of doing “nothing.”
In a news conference with the head of the Philadelphia police union last summer, McSwain said, “The brave men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department did their job, and exercised admirable courage and restraint while doing so.” That is a point of sharp contention after the use of tear gas and rubber bullets amid sometimes chaotic clashes.
McSwain’s new website also plays up his opposition to the city’s planned supervised injection site, meant to allow for the use of illegal drugs under medical supervision to combat the opioid crisis, Philadelphia’s sanctuary city immigration policies, and its restrictions on public gatherings during the pandemic.