Josh Shapiro, the lone Democrat running for Pa. Governor | Election Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Josh Shapiro, the lone Democrat running for Pa. Governor

click to enlarge Josh Shapiro, the lone Democrat running for Pa. Governor
CP Illustration: Lucy Chen
While nine Republican candidates battle to secure their party’s nomination for governor, Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the lone Democrat running to replace the term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf. Shapiro, 48, was elected Pennsylvania’s attorney general in 2016, and was re-elected in 2020.

He was first elected to office in 2004, when he flipped the seat in the 153rd legislative district from red to blue. In 2011, he was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Shapiro, who’s running largely on his record as the state’s top law enforcement official, has a massive war chest; in January, filings showed his campaign already had raised $13.4 million, a new state record for a gubernatorial candidate heading into an election year. A large chunk of that comes from labor unions, which donated more than $3 million to the Shapiro campaign in 2021.

During his tenure as attorney general, Shapiro’s office released a 2018 grand jury report alleging clergy sex abuse of over 1,000 children. In 2019, he helped negotiate an agreement between Highmark and UPMC that allowed patients insured by Highmark to continue receiving care from UPMC providers.

In an interview with Natalie Bencivenga on Pittsburgh City Paper’s After Hours Instagram show, Shapiro described his role as the commonwealth’s chief law enforcement officer, saying the job included “making sure that we address criminal activity like drug dealing in our communities, and holding people accountable for wrongdoing under the law.”

He also says he plans to try to work with Republicans, who will continue to control both chambers of the legislature, on many issues.

“If you go back and look at my time in the legislature and afterwards, I routinely worked with both parties to bring people together to find common ground,” Shapiro told City Paper, but added there were “certain lines” he wouldn’t cross as governor.

“You put a bill on my desk and restrict a woman's right to have an abortion, that will be met with a veto,” he told CP. “You put a bill on my desk to try and restrict the right to vote, it'll be met with a veto. But there are a whole bunch of areas where we can find common ground, and I think it takes someone like me, with the experience I've had and doing this, to bring people together to get that done.”

While he has had several significant wins as attorney general, Shapiro has been criticized by some progressives for his stances on some criminal justice issues. He said during his first campaign for AG that he supported the death penalty for the “most heinous of crimes.” He’s softened (or clarified) that stance more recently, but in an interview with the Pennsylvania Capital-Star earlier this month, he stopped short of committing to keeping in place a moratorium on capital punishment in Pennsylvania that Wolf implemented in 2015.

Shapiro also has found himself at odds with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over legislation that expanded the AG’s role in prosecuting gun crimes in Philadelphia. Krasner and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala also sued Shapiro over the $1 billion opioid settlement he helped negotiate with major pharmaceutical companies. The state’s Commonwealth Court dismissed the suits in February.

But with no primary opponent, Shapiro now has the luxury of keeping most of his $18 million in campaign funds in reserve for November when he’ll face off against the Republican nominee. He has spent about $2.7 million on ads so far.