Pennsylvania's high-profile attorney general enters 2022 governor race

(Reuters) – Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s Democratic attorney general and a high-profile critic of former President Donald Trump and his false election fraud claims, on Wednesday formally entered the 2022 race for governor of the crucial battleground state.

FILE PHOTO: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks at the opening ceremony at Girard College for the Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service before a free drive-through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing event targeting underserved communities on Martin Luther King day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Shapiro, who has for months indicated he would likely run for the state’s top position, released his first campaign video online ahead of a scheduled news conference with supporters in Pittsburgh at 11 a.m. ET.

The move makes Shapiro, 48, the early front-runner to become the Democratic Party’s nominee. No one else has yet launched a campaign to replace Democrat Tom Wolf, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third four-year term.

The Republican field for the 2022 race currently numbers a half-dozen and is expected to grow, with most candidates jostling to secure an endorsement from Trump, the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Lou Barletta, 65, a former U.S. congressman, and former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, 52, are among those who have already announced campaigns.

Shapiro, a former state representative and commissioner in Montgomery County just outside Philadelphia, is seen as a rising star in the party. He has made frequent appearances on cable TV shows criticizing Trump’s baseless claims of widespread electoral fraud in the presidential election in Pennsylvania, which Democrat Joe Biden won in 2020 by more than 80,000 votes.

Pennsylvania is a battleground state, where presidential elections can go either way, and commands a large number of the electoral votes needed to win the White House.

In his campaign video, Shapiro said he had a record of “taking on the big and powerful” and accused Republicans running for governor of wanting to “undermine free and fair elections, strip away voting rights, and permanently divide us.”

Last month, Shapiro filed a lawsuit in state court against Republican state lawmakers in a bid to stop their effort to subpoena detailed personal information on voters, including partial Social Security numbers, as part of their partisan review of the 2020 election. That legal dispute is continuing.

Barletta issued a statement in which he sought to tie Shapiro to the far left of the Democratic Party and the policies of Wolf, who has come under fire from Republicans for his restrictions on businesses and other measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“His policies are dictated to him by leftist activists and the residents of the Commonwealth have already suffered enough,” Barletta wrote.

Shapiro’s campaign video also highlighted his work overseeing a grand jury investigation that in 2018 led to sexual abuse allegations against 300 Roman Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

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