NEW YORK — As Pennsylvania’s political community descended on midtown Manhattan this past weekend for an annual gathering of cocktail parties and fund-raisers, there was no shortage of speculation about the next big elections on the horizon after 2020: races for governor and U.S. Senate in 2022.
The weekend in New York known as Pennsylvania Society is in some sense when future campaigns are born. A wide cross-section of political operatives, potential candidates, and their supporters sound each other out and size each other up.
Some of the only people not talking about it? The candidates most likely to actually run.
“Should we walk away at this point?” State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Montgomery County Democrat widely perceived as the front-runner for the nomination to replace the term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf, jokingly asked a staffer when a reporter broached the topic Saturday.
State Treasurer Joe Torsella, another Montgomery County Democrat and potential candidate for governor or Senate, said: “I hereby declare I intend to run for reelection as treasurer in 2020. And that’s the only election I’m thinking about now.”
Shapiro and Torsella have practical reasons for staying mum. Each is seeking a second term next year, and voters take a dim view of candidates looking past the election in front of them to the next race.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Lehigh Valley Republican who would be up for a third term in 2022, has told Republicans he’s considering running for governor. He didn’t close the door on that option when asked. And for a politician known for keeping his thinking and plans to a tight circle, that was a signal unto itself.
“I’ll be thinking a lot more about my own political future after the election next year,” Toomey said Saturday after speaking at the annual Pennsylvania Manufactures Association seminar.
Some factors are beyond Toomey’s control. A run for governor might be more enticing if Republicans lose control of the White House in the 2020 election. And if Democrats did win the presidency, Republicans would be looking forward to a swing back the other way in the 2022 midterm elections. That could help Toomey in either race — especially if a more liberal Democrat won in 2020.
Toomey has signaled to Republicans in recent months that he’s conflicted about his options: He’d be up to lead the Senate Banking Committee if Republicans kept the chamber, and both that prospect and the possibility of the Governor’s Mansion are attractive to him.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat from Braddock, said he hasn’t made any plans for a next election. Fetterman lost the Democratic primary for Senate in 2016 to Katie McGinty, who was defeated in the general election by Toomey.
Fetterman is widely expected to run for Senate again, though some of the political chatter over the weekend suggested he might also have an interest in running for governor.
“Whatever happens in ‘22 is wide open,” Fetterman said.
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Northeast Philadelphia Democrat, said it was “premature” to discuss any interest he might have in a run for Senate.
“I think we want to get through 2020,” Boyle said. “The reality is as long as you work hard, do what you have to do, and put yourself in position, then certain opportunities will arise. But it‘s one election at a time. There will be a time for me to sit down and seriously think about that. And that will be right after November 2020.”
“I have no comment on that at this point,” Kenney said at Pennsylvania Society, where the introverted mayor mixed and mingled at several cocktail parties. “We’re just trying to get our next term started.”
State House Speaker Mike Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican who briefly ran for governor before dropping his campaign in early 2018, went further than any other candidate in expressing an interest.
“I’m very positive on the idea of running for governor,” Turzai said Friday at the state Republican Party’s annual lunch. “We take one step at a time.”
Even party officials and politicians who won’t be on the 2022 ballot were dodging the question.
“As state party chair, I’m going to have to take a pass because anything I say will be misinterpreted,” said Lawrence Tabas, the new chairman of the state GOP. “But I am confident that we will win the governor’s race in 2022 with a great candidate.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat who is not up for reelection until 2024, said it was “way too far” in the future to discuss 2022.
“I’m only focused on 2020,” he said.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell, who never turns down a chance to talk politics, said he thinks Torsella “is up in the air” on whether to run for governor or Senate. And he said that having two Southeast Pennsylvania candidates — Torsella from Flourtown, Shapiro from Abington — would open the door for a Western Pennsylvania candidate in the 2022 Democratic primary.
“If Josh and Joe get in for governor,” Rendell said, “a strong western candidate would have a real leg up.”