HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM/AP) — A massive Republican primary field for governor in Pennsylvania is spurring growing discomfort among party leaders that a widely splintered primary vote could produce a winner who cannot beat Democrat Josh Shapiro in November’s general election.
Ten Republicans filed paperwork Tuesday to get on the May 17 primary ballot. That is more than party leaders expected or have ever seen in a such a high-profile primary contest.
It prompted grumbling over the state party’s decision not to endorse in a gubernatorial primary — to try to winnow the field — for the first time since 1978.
It has also propelled party leaders to begin working on a strategy to persuade some candidates who are perceived as weaker to drop out. They worry that a weak or polarizing candidate could theoretically win the primary election with less than 20% of the vote.
“We don’t want to allow a bad or poor candidate for the general election to potentially get through with a plurality due to the number of candidates in the race,” said Sam DeMarco, the GOP chairman of Allegheny County, home to more registered Republicans than any other county.
Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s two-time elected attorney general, has a clear path to the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Republican candidates who filed paperwork to appear on the ballot are: Lou Barletta, Doug Mastriano, Jake Corman, Joe Gale, Charlie Gerow, Melissa Hart, William McSwain, Jason Richey, David White, and Dr. Nche Zama.
In a Fox News poll released in March, former Congressman Lou Barletta and State Senator Doug Mastriano were separated by one point in the poll with Barletta in the lead at 19%.
Delaware County businessman Dave White is in a close third at 14%, followed closely by former U.S. Attorney William McSwain at 11%.
President Pro Tempore of Pennsylvania’s Senate Jake Corman sits fifth with 6% in the Fox News poll. Scott Martin, who dropped out due to an injury, received 3% and Dr. Nche Zama received 1%
Similarly to older polls, 25% of Republican Pennsylvania primary voters are undecided in the race to replace term-limited Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.
Forty-one percent of the 960 respondents said they are certain to support their current candidate, but 57% say they may change their mind.
Twenty-three percent of the voters in the poll supported Barletta compared to only 14% of women, while 23% of women supported Mastriano compared to only 14% of men.
Voters who identified themselves as conservative or very conservative (42%) supported Mastriano compared to Barletta at 38%. Barletta had a 1% lead over Mastriano among voters who identify themselves as “GOP.”
Barletta and Mastriano were tied at 19% each among voters 45 and older while Barletta had 18% of support among voters under 45. White received 17% support among voters under 45.
The primary is scheduled for May 17.
Associated Press reporter Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.