The Pennsylvania Senate's top elected Republican traveled to Washington, DC, last week to pitch the state's GOP congressmen on why he should be the party’s candidate for governor in 2022, two congressional staffers said.
Jake Corman of Centre County met on Thursday with several GOP members of the state’s U.S. House delegation at the Capitol Hill Club, a restaurant and event space located next door to the Republican National Committee’s headquarters.
Corman, 57, told the lawmakers he has a proven track record of raising campaign money and he can clear a crowded field of announced candidates and other Republicans testing the waters, according to two top aides to Pennsylvania’s GOP congressmen. Both declined to go on the record because they did not have permission to reveal details about the Corman meeting.
The nine Republican representatives from Pennsylvania don’t officially act on gubernatorial candidates, but they are individually and collectively a politically potent group.
Corman was accompanied to the breakfast meeting by his longtime campaign consultant and friend, Ray Zaborney, co-owner of The Mavericks, a group of lobbying and campaign consulting businesses based in Harrisburg.
Zaborney did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Friday and Saturday.
A staffer who attended the breakfast said Corman did not explicitly say he was running. But “there was no ambiguity” and people left the meeting believing he will enter the race.
Until recently, Corman only said he was considering a run for governor next year. Corman is Senate President Pro Tempore and holds the Senate seat once held by his father, former Sen. Jacob Corman II.
“It’s widely expected he’ll run,” said G. Terry Madonna, a longtime political analyst now with Millersville University.
Congressional staff members said Corman told the group he won’t publicly announce until after the Nov. 2 election for statewide judgeships and local offices.
In late September, Corman suggested that if he does run he would not say so until after the municipal elections.
“We’ll start talking about 2022 after the election,” Corman told the AP. That’s traditional among leading politicians who say they don’t want to distract from their party’s candidates on the ballot.
Political analysts have said Corman would be a formidable candidate, but not necessarily the front-runner.
In Pennsylvania, as in other states, former President Donald Trump’s grip on the GOP base creates uncertainty for longtime incumbents and institutional candidates like Corman.
In the summer, Corman appeared to block a so-called “forensic audit” of the 2020 election along the lines of the Arizona audit pushed by Trump allies. The Arizona audit, however, was not an actual audit but a glorified recount that ultimately confirmed that President Joe Biden indeed won the state.
But in mid-September, Corman changed direction and announced he was setting up a “forensic investigation” of the Pennsylvania election results. Democrats have challenged it in court.
Trump and his supporters are focused on finding evidence to show the election was stolen, but Corman has said his investigation is not intended to overturn an election but to identify and fix problems in the state’s election systems.
There are at least 14 announced and likely Republican candidates for governor, although the filing period doesn’t begin until Feb. 15. Those announced so far includes former Rep. Lou Barletta, the ex-Hazleton mayor and the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018, who was soundly defeated by Democratic Sen. Robert Casey. Trump had urged Barletta to run in 2018.
Also likely to enter the race is state Sen. Doug Mastriano, whose district includes Gettysburg, a vocal Trump supporter who held a November hearing where Trump’s attorneys, and even Trump himself via speakerphone, made false claims about fraud in Pennsylvania’s 2020 election.
There have been dozens of audits and lawsuits with no evidence of the “rigged” election Trump decries.
Other Republicans considering entry into the race include state Sens. Dan Laughlin of Erie and Scott Martin of Lancaster; and Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based political and media consultant. Already declared is former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, who was Trump’s appointee for the federal prosecutor in the Philadelphia area.
On the Democratic side, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the only candidate so far. The AP reported recently he has raised more than $10 million for his gubernatorial campaign.
UPDATE: The article was updated on Oct. 25 to note that Bill McSwain is a declared candidate for governor.
Bumsted is the Harrisburg bureau chief for The Caucus, LNP Media's publication covering state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @BEBumsted.