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By Amanda Berg / For Spotlight PA
HARRISBURG — By now, most voters have likely heard about the congested, double-digit field of contenders jockeying in this year’s primary race for the chance to snag the state’s top job of governor.
But there is another crowded primary contest unfolding with far less fanfare: that of lieutenant governor. In all, there are 12 people running to become Pennsylvania’s second-in-command — two more than in the governor’s race.
That uneven math is the result of Pennsylvania’s quirky rules for electing top executives. The state is among a minority that elects its governors and lieutenant governors separately in the primary, but then as a single ticket in the general election.
That election method has produced some odd pairings over the years, most recently in Gov. Tom Wolf’s first term, during which his icy relationship with then-Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, driven in part by how different they were in both style and personality, became one of the worst-kept secrets in the Capitol.
On paper, as it stands now, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately during the primary election.
Off the books, however, candidates often align early on and campaign together even in the months before the primary. That has been the case for this year’s May 17 primary race with Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Rep. Austin Davis of Allegheny County on the Democratic end; and Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County and Teddy Daniels on the Republican side of the election ballot.
But it’s all unofficial.
One lawmaker has tried for years to change that. State Sen. Dave Argall (R., Schuylkill) introduced legislation back in 2017 to change the way voters select the lieutenant governor. His proposal would allow Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial nominees to choose a running mate, similar to how the president of the United States selects one.
His measure, Argall said at the time, was inspired by the strained relationship between Wolf and Stack.
Such a change would require a change to the state constitution, which takes time and effort. A proposed amendment must be approved by the legislature in two consecutive two-year sessions and the language must be identical both times. Then, voters have the final say, deciding via a ballot question.
Argall’s bill passed for the first time in the 2019-2020 session. It appeared to be on track to be approved in the current two-year session — setting the stage for it to appear on the ballot this year — but the proposal has been laden with additional proposed election-related changes, clouding its future path.
What remains constant for the moment are the duties of the office. The lieutenant governor’s job is often described as one of the best in the Capitol because it carries with it the clout of the executive — and pays $178,940 annually — without the work or pressures of being governor.
The lieutenant governorship has some prescribed duties, including presiding over the 50-member state Senate and chairing the state Board of Pardons.
But beyond that, lieutenant governors are only as powerful as governors choose to make them. A governor could delegate important research or advocacy work to their lieutenant. Wolf, for instance, tasked Lt. Gov. John Fetterman at the start of his second term with completing a report on attitudes toward legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana.
Or they could ignore them completely.
Here is who is running for the office:
Austin Davis: A state representative from the Mon Valley near Pittsburgh, Davis worked for the Allegheny County government before becoming a lawmaker in 2018.
Brian Sims: An attorney and advocate for the LGBTQ community and women’s rights, Sims, of Philadelphia, was elected in 2012 to the House of Representatives, becoming one of the legislature’s first openly gay members.
Ray Sosa: A career banker and insurance agent from Montgomery County, Sosa also ran in 2018 for the job. He has been appointed by three governors to multiple state task forces, including ones on criminal justice and emergency management.
John Brown: A former elected executive of Northampton County, Brown was the Republican party’s nominee for auditor general in 2016, but lost to Democrat Eugene DePasquale. Spotlight PA could not locate a campaign website for Brown.
Jeff Coleman: A former legislator, the Central Pennsylvania resident is a longtime political consultant who has worked to elect conservatives and advance conservative causes.
Teddy Daniels: A supporter of former President Donald Trump, Daniels is a retired police officer and Army combat veteran who founded a security/transport consulting firm. The Wayne County resident posted on social media that he was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Carrie DelRosso: The Allegheny County resident and first-term lawmaker made headlines in 2020 when she defeated the minority leader in the state House.
Russ Diamond: A Lebanon County businessman who also became a well-known government reform advocate in the mid-2000s, Diamond was later elected to the state House, where he is serving his fourth term.
Chris Frye: The mayor of New Castle in Lawrence County, Frye has worked in federal reentry and workforce development programs and was an adjunct professor at Slippery Rock University.
James Jones: The Montgomery County resident founded and runs an oil and petroleum products trading business, and has twice run for Congress in the past two decades, both times unsuccessfully.
Rick Saccone: A Western Pennsylvania resident, Saccone is a former state lawmaker who made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2018. He was outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Clarice Schillinger: A Bucks County resident, Schillinger founded and ran political action committees to help elect school board candidates supportive of pushing back on pandemic-era restrictions on in-person learning.
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