Conservative activist Charlie Gerow to run for Pennsylvania governor

(Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

Charlie Gerow, a longtime conservative activist, said he will run for governor of Pennsylvania, formally joining the field of candidates vying for the Republican Party’s nomination next year.

Gerow, 66, runs a communications and marketing firm in Harrisburg with offices two blocks from the state Capitol, where he is a familiar face. He is vice chairman of the American Conservative Union and a rank-and-file state party committee member, and got his start in politics volunteering — and later as a paid staffer — on the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan.

He is also known to Sunday morning television audiences in central Pennsylvania for appearing for more than two decades as a political commentator on "Face the State," a public affairs show on the local CBS affiliate.

Gerow said he will formally announce his campaign on Thursday evening at a volunteer firehouse in Cumberland County.

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Like other Republican candidates, Gerow said he would focus on improving economic opportunity and freedom.

But, Gerow said he will distinguish himself in a primary as the candidate who will pledge to get the Legislature to pass two key government reforms.

One is a constitutional amendment to allow ballot initiatives sponsored by voters "to get their voices heard when the Legislature doesn’t act or when the governor stonewalls them."

The other is also a constitutional amendment to let voters recall a governor "who thinks he or she is a king," a not-so veiled reference to conservative dismay over the executive authority wielded by Gov. Tom Wolf during the pandemic.

(Office of Gov. Tom Wolf)  ((Office of Gov. Tom Wolf) )

"I will put my shoulder to the wheel and work with the Legislature to get it done," Gerow said.

Gerow also characterizes himself as a coalition builder who can get things done by bringing sometimes disparate elements together, noting his work on criminal justice reform issues "where I had Donald Trump and Van Jones working together."

Gerow said he supported Trump as president. But in a race where Trump’s support could be important, Gerow did not want to discuss whether he agrees with Trump’s baseless claims about fraud in the election or whether Trump bore any responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"I’m running for governor, I’m not here to relitigate what happened in 2020, and I think it’s important for us to focus on the future and make sure the integrity of our elections are absolutely preserved," Gerow said.

He does, he said, support efforts by Republican lawmakers to hold hearings on election integrity and to overhaul aspects of the state’s election law.

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"There were certainly some irregularities in the 2020 election and that’s what we ought to focus on, cleaning up the problems that existed, not only last year but this year too," Gerow said.

Trump’s claims about fraud were thrown out of court. But with Trump casting doubt on voting by mail, leading Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and governor have called for the repeal of Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law passed in 2019.

Gerow suggested that he does not support it, saying the "traditional absentee system works better."

Gerow’s announcement that he will run was not a surprise, after appearing on the GOP’s event circuit in recent months, speaking to audiences as a potential candidate and telling them that U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson asked him to run. This would be Gerow’s first statewide campaign after running unsuccessfully for Congress and the state Legislature in the past.

The governor’s office is open in 2023 since Wolf, a Democrat, is term-limited.

To succeed him, Democrats are coalescing around Pennsylvania’s second-term Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has said he expects to run for governor, but has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

On the Republican side, already declared is Lou Barletta, the former four-term congressman who was the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 before he lost to Democrat Bob Casey.

Other Republicans who have said they are interested in running include U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, Bill McSwain, a former chief federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, and state Sens. Dan Laughlin, Scott Martin and Doug Mastriano.

Several others are declared candidates: Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, Pittsburgh lawyer Jason Richey and Dr. Nche Zama, a cardiothoracic surgeon.



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