Bill McSwain launched his 2022 campaign for governor of Pennsylvania on Monday, presenting himself as a “fighter for conservative values” who would stand up for the rule of law and strengthen an economy he said has been weakened by Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions.
McSwain, a Republican and former top federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, said his experience in the Marines helped make him the leader Pennsylvania needs to halt “unscientific closings” and “heavy-handed state dictates on how Pennsylvanians live their lives.”
He blamed not just Wolf, a second-term Democrat who can’t seek reelection next year, but also state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, widely seen as the early front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
“Our official motto was: whatever it takes,” McSwain said of the Marines. “That’s the mentality we need right now in Pennsylvania: whatever it takes. Tom Wolf and Josh Shapiro have driven Pennsylvania into a ditch. We’re going to do whatever it takes to pull her out.
McSwain, 52, made the long-expected announcement outside the Chester County Courthouse in his hometown of West Chester, where he was joined by his wife, Stephanie; their children; and a few dozen supporters. Among them was Terri O’Connor, the widow of slain Philadelphia Police Cpl. James O’Connor IV. She praised McSwain for bringing federal charges against her late husband’s alleged killers.
Other declared or prospective GOP candidates include former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin), State Sen. Dan Laughlin (R., Erie), State Sen. Scott Martin (R., Lancaster), and political strategist Charlie Gerow.
Democrats have largely coalesced behind Shapiro, of Montgomery County, who has yet to announce his campaign.
The race is expected to be hotly contested in a politically divided state, and it has huge stakes. Republicans control the legislature and will be favored to keep it. So if they recapture the governor’s office, they could enact policies that have been stopped by Wolf’s veto pen, including on issues like abortion, voting, and more.
McSwain’s tenure as U.S. attorney under former President Donald Trump was marked by repeated clashes with Philadelphia’s Democratic leaders, most notably District Attorney Larry Krasner. McSwain often accused Krasner of fostering a “culture of lawlessness” in the city.
On Monday, McSwain said he “stood up to the radical leftist” Krasner, opposed Philadelphia’s “dangerous” sanctuary city policies protecting undocumented immigrants, and “put rioters, looters, and arsonists in jail who tried to destroy Philadelphia last summer.”
McSwain said that as governor he would boost the economy by cutting taxes for “working families,” reducing regulations, and promoting the state’s energy industry “instead of trying to regulate it to death.”
And he vowed to adopt education policies that prioritize parents, students, and teachers, not teachers unions.
McSwain formed a political group in March as he prepared for a likely 2022 gubernatorial campaign. But he found it difficult to navigate the GOP political environment as he sought to gain Trump’s approval this summer.
He wrote a letter to Trump saying the Justice Department had disrupted his efforts to investigate allegations of election fraud last year — an allegation McSwain’s former boss, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, flatly rejected. Barr said McSwain told him he wrote the letter to curry favor with Trump.
Trump used the letter to support his false claims of election rigging.
That dispute didn’t come up Monday. But McSwain — who has previously declined to say whether he accepts the results of the 2020 presidential election — said he would “secure our elections by having commonsense laws to protect against fraud, such as voter ID.”
He also recalled charges his office brought last year against a former judge of elections in South Philadelphia who admitted to taking bribes to inflate vote totals for certain Democratic judicial candidates from 2014 to 2016.
“Now I know election fraud exists because I actually prosecuted it,” McSwain said, adding he would support “an election system in our state in which everybody has confidence.”