Melissa Hart, a former Republican congresswoman from the Pittsburgh suburbs, is joining the crowded GOP field running for governor.
Hart told The Inquirer of her intent to officially launch her campaign early in the New Year. She spoke while mingling at the Metropolitan Club in New York City during the annual Pennsylvania Society gathering of statewide politicians.
”My goals are to be a practical problem solver,” Hart said. “I want to bring more common sense and a little less fight. My fight would be for the people who are being held back by either bad policy or actually unresponsive state agencies.”
Hart has been out of politics working as a lawyer for 14 years. She’s currently a consultant for Hergenroeder Rega Ewing & Kenney, LLC in Pittsburgh. In the early 2000s she was seen as a rising star in her party, the first Republican woman to be elected to a full term in the state Senate, when she was 28, and the first woman Republican to be elected to federal office in Pennsylvania.
She’ll be the only woman in a field of at least 10 men. Pennsylvania has never had a female governor or senator.
“It’s not why I got in but certainly it differentiates me, among the other things that do, with me having public service as my starting point and then the private sector,” she said.
”I think women may be more approachable in a lot of ways, or people at least view us that way,“ she said. “I think that’s good because if you don’t know exactly what your problems are it’s hard to solve them.”
Hart, 59, represented Pennsylvania’s Fourth District from 2001 to 2007. Before the map changed, that district encompassed the suburbs of Pittsburgh as well as parts of Beaver, Lawrence and Mercer Counties. The district had a slight Democratic registration edge then, which has only grown since.
Hart lost to Democrat Jason Altmire in 2006 and was unsuccessful in a rematch two years later.
The Pennsylvania Society event was smaller this year than before COVID struck, but several other gubernatorial hopefuls attended and addressed the crowd at a seminar of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association. Speakers running for governor including state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, former U.S. Attorney William McSwain, former head of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce Guy Ciarrocchi and U.S,. Rep. Lou Barletta.
Jason Richey, a lawyer from near Pittsburgh also attended but did not speak. Richey and Hart are currently the only declared gubernatorial candidates from Western Pennsylvania.