Pennsylvania Republicans have been battling with Gov. Tom Wolf since he unseated incumbent Tom Corbett in 2014. Many of them are eager to take Wolf’s place, but there is no clear frontrunner this early in the race. Several Republicans have already announced their bid, and a few others have hinted or shown interest in joining what is expected to be a crowded primary. Thus far, it’s hard to find a Republican candidate without some sort of ties to former President Donald Trump. 

With a heated race to fill U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat next year, the GOP will have to be strategic about what candidates it wants to back for the Senate and for governor. The party will have to decide who it wants to go up against Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the preordained Democratic candidate who recently launched his formal campaign.

The already-crowded Republican field is getting even bigger with the addition of former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, the first woman to join the race for the commonwealth’s executive office. There are plenty of other names that could be added to this list in the coming months, but here is the most current iteration of potential Republican candidates for 2022. 

Running

Former U.S Rep. Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart, who served the suburbs of western Pennsylvania in the then-4th congressional district for six years, is set to become the first woman in the race for governor. She got her start in politics breaking barriers too, becoming the first Republican woman to be elected to a full term in the state Senate and the first Republican woman to be elected to federal office from the commonwealth. Following her time in Congress, Hart returned to legal work and is currently a consultant at Hergenroeder Rega Ewing & Kenney, LLC in Pittsburgh. She is expected to start her campaign in the new year. 

Shawn Berger

A business owner hailing from the eastern part of the commonwealth, Shawn Berger wants to bring his blue-collar work ethic to the governor’s race. Berger owns two businesses, American Environmental Services, an industrial vacuum truck company in Gilbert, and the American Lobster restaurant in Wind Gap. Berger kept his restaurant open throughout the pandemic and has been a vocal opponent of Wolf’s COVID-19 mitigation mandates. His campaign site says he’s focused on upgrading the state’s infrastructure, improving education through school choice and utilizing the state’s natural resources to boost the energy economy and bring taxes down. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman

Sen. Jake Corman is one of the most prominent figures in Harrisburg set to make a run for the state’s executive office. His potential candidacy has been suspected for months, and that speculation was confirmed last week when Corman officially launched his campaign in his Centre County hometown. Corman said on his “Restore Freedom” listening tour that he will fight for personal freedoms, job creation and safe communities.

Dave White

Dave White, who runs a plumbing and HVAC company in Delaware County, recently joined the still-growing list of Republicans running for governor. The businessman is a third-generation union steamfitter who will try to leverage his ties to labor unions and blue-collar workers to carve out a space in the Republican primary field. White is a former county councilman who lost his reelection bid in 2017. He formally launched his campaign Saturday and said that he expects prominent party support in southeastern Pennsylvania and $2 million of his own money to kick off his campaign. 

Chester County Chamber CEO Guy Ciarrocchi

The economy is the top priority for Guy Ciarrocchi, who has served as president and CEO of the main trade group for Chester County businesses since 2014. He brings both policy and financial experience to the field, having spent time as a top official in former Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, as well as the chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, U.S Rep. Jim Gerlach and state Sen. Melissa Hart. A South Philadelphia native, Ciarrocchi said he’d like to overhaul the Department of Labor and to focus on education reform and school choice. 

Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain

McSwain, a former Trump-appointed prosecutor in Philadelphia, officially announced his intent to run for governor in September. As a U.S. attorney, he would often exchange blows with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner, claiming they were soft on crime. McSwain resigned from his position just before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, but made headlines in July when he claimed Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, told him not to investigate claims of voter fraud. Like most Republicans, he has repeatedly criticized Wolf for his COVID-19 response. The 2020 election and pandemic response will continue to be major talking points throughout his first run for public office.

Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta

Barletta’s political career began in his hometown of Hazelton, where he went from city councilman to mayor. He then made his way to Washington, winning the U.S. House of Representatives race for Pennsylvania’s 11th congressional district in 2010. His attempt to jump over to the Senate failed, however, as he lost to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in 2018. Looking to get back into Pennsylvania politics, Barletta announced his bid for governor earlier this week. A strong opponent of illegal immigration, Barletta was also a member of former President Donald Trump’s transition team in 2016. 

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale

Gale was the first Republican to formally announce his candidacy for governor back in February. An avid Trump supporter, he has criticized the Pennsylvania GOP and pledged to be a conservative populist. He’s also caught attention for calling the Black Lives Matter Movement a hate group and saying Trump’s presidency was sabotaged. 

Former Corry Mayor Jason Monn

Monn, a former council member and mayor of Corry, announced that he will seek the Republican nomination earlier this year. The owner of Fat Monn’s Grub restaurant, Monn has been a vocal opponent of Wolf and his COVID restrictions. He sees himself as a political outsider standing up for small businesses and the people most affected by the pandemic closures. He even gained publicity during the initial closures for selling $1 kids meals and donating to children in need. He’s focusing on being the “common Monn” on the ballot. 

Pittsburgh attorney Jason Richey

Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Richey announced his candidacy for governor earlier this year. Like many of his fellow candidates, the partner at Pittsburgh's K&L Gates law firm said he decided to run after Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions took away peoples’ freedoms and hurt the economy. His “Contract with Pennsylvanians” outlines his plans to shrink government spending in order to reduce taxes, increase transparency, and bring more jobs to the Commonwealth. 

Dr. Nche Zama

Zama is another candidate that has announced a bid for governor. A well-known cardiothoracic surgeon, Zama is based in East Stroudsburg, Monroe County, and focused much of his announcement speech on his work as a humanitarian and skilled surgeon. He claims that for too long, Pennsylvania has been “sick” and that Harrisburg has been too broken to properly support its economy and education and health care systems. 

Charlie Gerow

A longtime conservative activist, Gerow threw his hat into the ring earlier this year. Gerow is another Republican hopeful with a history in Harrisburg. He runs a communications and marketing firm near the Capitol, and has appeared as a political commentator on public affairs shows in central Pennsylvania for years. Looking to set himself apart from other conservatives, Gerow said his top priorities include allowing ballot initiatives sponsored by voters, and allowing voters to recall a governor. 

John Ventre

A Hempfield Republican with a “Never Socialist” tagline, Ventre is another gubernatorial candidate leaning heavily into Trump’s messaging. Ventre, who came in third in the Republican primary for Westmoreland County Commissioner in 2019, is a retired UPS security and public affairs executive and has previously served as a state director of the Mutual UFO Network, an organization that investigates suspected sightings of unidentified flying objects. His campaign site emphasizes he is “Pro-GOD, Pro-GUN, Pro-LIFE, Pro-CONSTITUTION, and Pro-FREEDOM.” He wants to “Make PA Great Again” by reducing the size of the legislature, decreasing business taxes and prosecuting “cancel culture” as harassment.
 

Possible Contenders

State Sen. Doug Mastriano

Sen. Doug Mastriano, representing Franklin County, unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 before winning a special election for the 33rd senatorial district in 2019. Mastriano, who said recently that he’s forming an exploratory committee to gauge support for a prospective gubernatorial bid, has been a vocal Trump advocate throughout his time in Harrisburg, even helping organize bus rides for supporters to join him in Washington for the January 6 protests. He claims he did not participate in the rally once it turned violent, but has continued to keep ties with the former president. Mastriano has also claimed that Trump asked him to run for governor and stated that he would support Mastriano’s campaign.

State Sen. Dan Laughlin

Laughlin is another state senator that has confirmed interest in running for governor. A contractor coming from Erie, he’s considered more of a moderate Republican. Laughlin unseated an incumbent Democrat in 2016 to get his state senate seat. He’s also made moves recently to introduce more bipartisan legislation, including proposals to increase the minimum wage and to legalize adult-use cannabis. He has also announced the formation of a committee to explore a gubernatorial run. If he does decide to run, he’ll likely be the centrist candidate for any Republicans that aren’t pro-Trump.

State Sen. Scott Martin

Martin announced last week he is forming an exploratory committee to run for the Republican nomination for governor. A former county commissioner, Martin is in his second term as a state senator representing the 13th district. He is a lifelong Lancaster County resident, having graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School and Millersville University before representing the area. He currently serves as chair of the Senate Education Committee and has been a staunch advocate for school choice and expanding tax credit scholarship programs.