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Take Note: WPSU talks with three of the candidates running in the Republican primary for Pennsylvania governor

Head and shoulders shots of  Jake Corman, Nche Zama and Charlie Gerow.
Jake Corman, Nche Zama and Charlie Gerow are three of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination to be governor in the 2022 Pennsylvania primary.

Pennsylvania’s primary election is May 17, and this year, voters will pick their nominees for governor. On the Democratic side, the race is not competitive. Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the only candidate on the ballot. But on the Republican side, nine candidates are vying for their party’s nomination to be governor. WPSU invited all of those candidates for interviews leading up to the primary. On this week's Take Note, WPSU's Anne Danahy talked with Charlie Gerow, Nche Zama and Jake Corman, starting with Charlie Gerow. Here are their conversations.

Anne Danahy 
Charlie Gerow, thank you for talking with us.

Charlie Gerow 
Great to be with you, Anne. Thanks for the opportunity.

Anne Danahy 
You're a conservative political strategist based in Harrisburg. And you're also one of nine candidates in this race. You all agree on some of the major issues. What makes you stand out from the other candidates?

Charlie Gerow 
Anne, I'm a political outsider who knows what's going on inside, which really gives me a unique position. I'm a small businessman, so I know how to run a business. And I'd like to see state government run like a business. And I've been involved in public policy for a lot of years working for the conservative values that I think most Pennsylvanians believe in.

Anne Danahy 
And when you say you want to see state government run like a business, what do you mean?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, first of all, I'd like to see us tighten our belts a little bit, spending less. Our budget in Pennsylvania has doubled in the last 20 years, most households budgets have not doubled in the last 20 years. So they're feeling the effects of paying more and more taxes. I think we've got to allow people to keep more of what they earn, and decide for themselves how those dollars are spent.

Anne Danahy 
Are there particular big ticket items that you would want to see reduced or cut?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, I think we could look at the state budget across the board and make some cuts in spending in a variety of different areas. You know, the, the instant thing is, well, where do you want to cut? Well, where have we expanded the budget exponentially over the course of the past number of years. That's where I think we could see some real reductions.

Anne Danahy 
And Pennsylvania does consistently rank near the bottom when it comes to roads and bridges that are in poor condition. How would you address that if you were governor?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, the motor license fund is being raided by the General Assembly to pay for other things, most notably, the Pennsylvania State Police. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge the state police one penny. In fact, I think we ought to increase their funding, but it ought to be coming out of the general fund, rather than out of the motor license fund, which is specifically designed by law for roads and bridges.

Anne Danahy 
You've said that you would like to get rid of the school property tax that districts in Pennsylvania use to pay for K through 12 schools? What would you replace those tax dollars with? And how would that work?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, you know, we've been talking about getting rid of the school property tax for as long as I can remember, and nothing has been done. Senior citizens in particular find it onerous, because they mostly live on fixed incomes. And the prices of property taxes continue to rise while their incomes don't. So we have to be honest with each other and and say there's got to be a burden shift, it's not going to be that we're magically going to make the taxes go away. But I would shift the burden to a broader base, expanding the base of the sales tax, and increasing it perhaps 1 or 2%. That spreads out the the burden of paying those taxes in a way that I think is much more fair than putting it on homeowners, particularly those who are a little bit older and live on fixed incomes.

Anne Danahy 
And then how would you distribute that because income, or property taxes rather, are at the local level. So if a school district raises their property taxes, they control that.

Charlie Gerow 
Yeah, and this, obviously, the sales tax will be collected by the state and will be done according to the formula that we that we currently have, which is you know, Anne, up for great debate, as we sit here. So there's a lot of moving pieces there that have to be worked out. But the one thing I have the ability to do is to work with the General Assembly to make sure we get things done. And that's one of the things that does make me unique among the several Republican candidates.

Anne Danahy 
What do you mean?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, a lot of them want to fight with the General Assembly on everything. And I mean, I'm not saying the General Assembly is without its faults. But ultimately, you've got to be able to work with them in order to get things accomplished. And I think that's what people in Pennsylvania are looking for is some real results, rather than just a lot of talk, the, you know, chest-thumping speeches have to end at some point, and you've got to get down to work. And that's what I say, I know what needs to be done. I know how to do it. I may be an outsider, but I know what's going on inside. And I know how to address the issues that people really care about, and are talking about over their breakfast tables or dinner tables.

Anne Danahy 
Another issue that you said you'd like to change is Pennsylvania's Act 77, which among other things made mail in voting in Pennsylvania easier, and you've said you'd like to repeal that. It got support from both Republicans and Democrats when it was passed before the COVID-19 pandemic. What would you say to a voter who likes not having to stand in line to vote in person, and I'm thinking in particular of older voters?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, you know, there's an awful lot of buyer's remorse over Act 77, as you know, and some of the people who voted for it now want to repeal it. The problem with Act 77, Anne, was that it was on its face unconstitutional. And if the legislature wanted to do what it did, they should have offered a constitutional amendment to the people of Pennsylvania to vote on by referendum because that's how we do constitutional amendments in Pennsylvania. And then they'd have had a choice, but unfortunately, they did it the wrong way. And I firmly believe that it ought to be repealed. I think there are a lot of problems with no-excuse mail-in voting, but if that's what the people of Pennsylvania want, then put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, and let them say so.

Anne Danahy 
If you were elected governor, what would you do to prepare the state for future pandemics? If they do come our way?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, we have to be prepared. But what we saw in the last situation with Tom Wolf's locked down, shut down, top down, eat it mandate, big government driven nonsense was an inability to work with the General Assembly — in fact he fought them most of the time, whenever they tried to make a move on behalf of the constituents whom they represent. He fought them. He used his veto pen to line out things that the people of Pennsylvania wanted. That's not what we need in the future. For any pandemic, we need a governor that is going to respond to the people and preserve their individual liberties at the highest level. And I'm one that believes that in addition to the two constitutional amendments we passed, to check the powers of the governor, in emergency situations, we need a third. And that is one that would allow we the people all of us the right to recall and remove from office, any governor that thinks he or she is a king or queen.

Anne Danahy 
How they have it in California.

Charlie Gerow 
Exactly.

Anne Danahy 
So you think that's effective?

Charlie Gerow 
I do. I think the right of the people to recall a governor who overstepped his or her bounds is really important. Ultimately, the government is about we the people, we are in charge here. And when some governor thinks that they are able to tell us what to do in our daily lives, we ought to be able to have the right to say you're out of here.

Anne Danahy 
Pennsylvania ranks at the bottom when it comes to higher education funding per student. And when it comes to post secondary education, whether we're talking about a technical school or a four year degree, what, if anything, do you think Pennsylvania should be doing differently to make it more affordable?

Charlie Gerow 
Well, with two kids in college, and one who just graduated from a PASSHE school, I know a little bit about the high cost of education. And yeah, we've got to do something to address that. But again, the question ultimately becomes who's going to pay for all this, and with some real tightening of belts across the board because of the inflation that we've all been faced with and confronted with, it's going to be tough, but I think there are some ways to make college more affordable for Pennsylvania students.

Anne Danahy 
Any quick examples?

Charlie Gerow 
I'm going to have this — I'm going to work with the General Assembly. As I said, I think one of the things that I bring to the table is the ability to work with the General Assembly to come up with some of the solutions to issues like that that had been talked about for a long time, but where not much has been done, and where costs continue to rise. I think we also can look to the university systems to reduce their tuitions so that college is more affordable.

Anne Danahy 
And we have just a few seconds left, what would your top priority be if you were elected?

Charlie Gerow 
My top priority is going to be to vitalize and restore the economic power of Pennsylvania to bring jobs to Pennsylvania to stimulate our economy in ways that it hasn't grown before, so that our young people can stay here rather than moving to Arizona, or Texas or Florida, South Carolina, so that parents don't have to buy airplane tickets to visit their grandchildren. And so that we can have a future of prosperity for every Pennsylvanian that we really all want and deserve.

Anne Danahy 
Charlie Gerow, thank you so much for talking with us.

Charlie Gerow 
It's great to be with you, Anne. Thank you for the opportunity, and I hope people will remember that my name is spelled G-E-R-O-W. It's a tough name to pronounce. But it's great to be with you and thank you for the chance to say hello.

Anne Danahy
If you’re just joining us, this is Take Note on WPSU. I’m Anne Danahy, and we’re talking with candidates running in the Republican primary for Pennsylvania Governor. Next, we’ll hear from Nche Zama.

Anne Danahy 
Nche Zama, thank you for talking with us.

Nche Zama 
Oh, my pleasure.

Anne Danahy 
You're a heart surgeon and chemist, and you've said that Pennsylvania is sick and needs a heart surgeon for governor. In what way is the state sick? And how would you address that?

Nche Zama 
In numerous ways. If you look at our state government, and then you look at our state in general. And if you start back and see how the COVID crisis kind of unveiled a lot of deficiencies in our healthcare system, in particular, in the state, we tend to be more reactive than proactive. And if you see the vast majority of the people who are dying from COVID, were folks in the inner city, and folks who had pre-existing or pre0morbid conditions, whether it's COPD, whether it's diabetes, hypertension, obesity, which is an epidemic in our state, and cardiovascular disease. And so, over the years, we've kicked this can down the line, we've not addressed these issues as in preventive medicine. So we've allowed people to stay in extremely high risk categories, and more and more people each year. And so a COVID virus hits, and we're caught off guard. And unfortunately, the focus was just shots, shots, shots, shots, and it wasn't holistic. And predictably, the outcomes were miserably poor.

And then you see what has happened. With our children with now the vast majority of the kids are one of the most common causes of death in our kids is suicide, because of that mismanagement, mask mandates— and I'm not, by the way, anti-vax, let me just say that disclaimer — I believe, for the more holistic type of leadership, and that was woefully missing during this crisis. And so now we have mental illness, so prevalent in our mothers and people in general, drug use, and abuse has gone through the roof, and what else, the educational system was up ended during the crisis, and we got to see just how terrible our educational system is. So I want our children, all our children, from all zip codes, to have the best education, and also to aspire for excellence.

Also, our educational system is woefully lacking in vocational education. And I think that's something that is extremely important. And finally, school choice. And so if you look Summerlee, we've been going in the wrong direction. I've learned one thing. We pump billions into education into into Pennsylvania, into our schools. And we're the largest export of graduates. There's clearly something wrong.

Anne Danahy 
If you were elected governor, can you give us specifics about what you would do to prepare the state for future pandemics? You talked about kind of how things went wrong. In your opinion, how would you prepare the state for future problems?

Nche Zama 
First thing I will do is establish a Department of Interceptive Medicine and Pandemic Preparedness. And what does that mean? We start addressing many of these risk factors in our population. Preventive medicine, my sister, is always better than treatment. And so we'll start identifying populations at risk and addressing those risk factors. Because there are 24 viruses out there. One of them is going to enter in the next couple of days. And another thing we need to do is, you know, technology and healthcare are so intertwined, there are vast swaths of this state without broadband, and in this era of telemedicine, if you live out in Sullivan County, or somewhere up in, you know, McKean County, you're in the wilderness, and you're disconnected from the rest of the state and really the rest of humanity, and in case of a medical crisis — and I've traveled this entire state, up and down west to east — and they're so disconnected from technology. That's one of the first things that I will do, is to be sure that technology is available. A pregnant mother up in McKean County, in the middle of the winter, in the middle of a pandemic is in trouble if she can't reach a doctor somewhere, physically, and cannot even reach a doctor electronically. That's a travesty that needs to be corrected. That's one of the things that I will do.

Anne Danahy
You've also said that Harrisburg has been in a coma. When you're talking about addressing a variety of issues, can you give an example of a concrete step that you would take to address the goals — in education, for example?

Nche Zama
As a scientist and a doctor, I don't treat symptoms, I look for the root causes and address them. So I get sustainable solutions. That's what the community needs. When I say being in a coma, they're not really aware of the root causes of these problems. If you look at South Philly, or North Philly, I just pick any geography or any zip code. A lot of those kids live in communities where there's tremendous insecurities. One: crime, and what are the root causes of crime? If you address those, you know, lack of education, lack of jobs, you know, social despair, and all these issues that we can address. Now, the reason I start with saying that is that, if you're a child living in South Philly, education to you is not primary, it becomes secondary or tertiary. Because you've got all these other issues to contend with — housing insecurities. And ironically, they're also interconnected that if you address education, education will ultimately address crime and address housing insecurities. About half of black children who drop out of high school, will end up in jail. And so when I say Harrisburg is in a coma, they don't want to address these solutions, or maybe they don't have the understanding, because you've got to get to the root cause to be able to attain sustainable solutions. And the same could apply to every pillar of our government. And, you know, if you look at energy, that applies, if you look at, you know, a healthcare, as I've stated, and many other things.

Anne Danahy 
On the higher education front, Pennsylvania ranks at the bottom when it comes to higher education funding per student. And when it comes to post secondary education, whether we're talking about technical school, or a four year degree or medical degrees, what, if anything, do you think the state should be doing differently to make it more affordable?

Nche Zama 
So there's a couple of things. We're not necessarily poor as a state, we're just not managed well. We need revenue to be able to address, to offset some of the deficiencies and these fissures in the pillars of government that we talked about. But one of the things we have, my sister, beneath us is tremendous energy resources. I think we can use those energy resources beneath us. And I'm talking to the tunes of hundreds of billions of dollars, we would be the fourth, we're the fourth largest resource for energies in the world right now, if we were a country. And so if we opened up the use of those resources by eliminating these archaic policies that we have that are restraining us. Open new markets. One of the biggest constraints for economic growth in developing countries around the world is what? Energy deficiency. And we can address that.

A couple other things, eco tourism, medical tourism, which we have not exploited. So all of these opportunities, if we exploited them, open them up, we can now have tremendous revenue that we can address these educational issues, the underfunding. And also our tax policies as so prohibitive of business growth, where we have one of the highest corporate taxes in American businesses don't want to move here. Lowering those taxes will help businesses to grow better and faster, and it would encourage our graduates to stay in the state. There a lot of kids at Lehigh University, Bucknell, and places like that, Penn State University, walking around these great institutions with a billion dollars in their laptop computers. They don't want to stay here. When they graduate, where do they go? To the airport to North Carolina, Texas, California. And if you change these business policies and regulations, they'll be able to stay here in the state, and then opening up new opportunities around the world, as I said in energy and agriculture. Can you begin to see now, why we can take this economy from $800 billion GDP right now to a trillion dollars in just a few years. And with that increasing revenue. And just using some critical thinking here, you can see how we can use that to offset many of the deficiencies we have, and uplifting segments of our society.

Anne Danahy 
In just a few sentences. If you were elected, what would your top priority be?

Nche Zama 
My top priority would be to unite, because my sister, no agenda means anything if we're disunited. And we're the most polarized I've ever seen. I want to bring all the factions together. Because we must be united. We don't have to be uniform. I believe in unity and not uniformity. But we need to focus on a common agenda and a common future. When we can do that, then we can start working on crafting strategies to address education to address health care, to address our economy, and we can make this a premier state in the union and a beacon light of hope for all.

Anne Danahy 
Nche Zama, thank you so much for talking with us.

Nche Zama 
It's been a pleasure. And I pray God blesses you today and always.

Anne Danahy
If you’re just joining us, this is Take Note on WPSU. I’m Anne Danahy, and we’re talking with candidates running in the Republican primary for Pennsylvania Governor. Next, we’ll hear from Jake Corman.

Nine Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to be governor of Pennsylvania in the 2022 primary. The Democratic primary for Governor is not competitive. WPSU invited all the Republican candidates for interviews leading up to the May 17 primary. Here’s the conversation WPSU’s Anne Danahy had with Jake Corman.

Anne Danahy 
Jake Corman thank you for talking with us.

Jake Corman 
Great to be with you, as always.

Anne Danahy 
You're the president pro tem of the Pennsylvania Senate, serving in the Senate since 1998. And you're also one of nine candidates in this race. You all agree on some of the issues. What sets you apart from the other candidates?

Jake Corman 
I think my experience, you know, I'm the only one that actually knows the process and how Harrisburg works and how to get things done. You know, I spent a career of taking on the big issues, whether it's issues like public pension reform, whether it was issues like the governor's shutting down, you know, the state's jobs and businesses, whatever it was, I took on the big issues and was successful in getting them done. A Corman administration is not going need to transition, we're going to be able to step in there on Day 1, and understand the process, be able to work with the legislature. You know, we've had a governor for two years who has not worked with the legislature at all. And so therefore, you've seen dysfunction. You want someone who can work with Republicans and Democrats alike, the legislature so the legislative branch, the executive branch can work together to improve the lives of people in Pennsylvania. Ultimately, that's our job in public service, is to do things and improve the lives of the people Pennsylvania. I have the skill set and the ability of my experience to get that done. And I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Anne Danahy 
And you've said you want to get rid of mail-in voting, which was made easier by Act 77. That was bipartisan legislation passed before the pandemic, and you voted for allowing mail-in voting. Why the change?

Jake Corman 
Absolutely. Look, you know, Act 77 was a was a piece of legislation to try to enhance people's abilities to access to vote, which we all should be for. Unfortunately, Governor Wolf turned it into a vessel for the opportunity to commit fraud. We're seeing that by having the multiple weeks now of mail-in balloting without excuse. And then you combine that with the Dropbox, which was not passed by the legislature. He got rid of signature verification of the mail-in ballots, which always was part of the absentee ballot process. And so what you've seen, and we've seen it in Lehigh County where we've had more ballots cast than people who showed up at Dropbox, and Philadelphia County where they were supposed to keep the video of the dropboxes for two years by federal law. They didn't keep it for some mysterious reason. By getting rid of all these security measures, you brought doubt into the process. And that is the worst thing you can have in a democracy — is there doubt whether who won and who lost. Look, elections go back and forth, right? Republican wins some years, Democrats win some years. That's democracy. But everyone feels good about having the ability to affect change at the ballot box. We need to do whatever we can to restore faith. And I think scrapping the system, and then ultimately, rebuilding it is the way to go. And and, you know, unfortunately, that's where Tom Wolfe, the position he's put us in. But I think it's the right thing to do so we can restore faith in the electoral process.

Anne Danahy 
Yeah, and I'll just note, there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud. I mean, somebody dropping off a ballot for someone else might not be legal or allowable, but it doesn't mean there's fraud, per se.

Jake Corman 
A hundred percent. But it's illegal. First of all, so we need it to stop. But I didn't say there was widespread fraud. What I said is, we've seen situations clearly that there's ability for fraud, and we don't know the depth of it, because the prosecutors aren't prosecuting these individuals, bringing them in finding out why they're casting ballots for other people. We don't have the video from Philadelphia at all. The problem is we don't have the ability, the knowledge to know the depth of the illegal activity. The fact is, it is illegal, and we should put a stop to it. And I think this is the best way to put a stop to it.

Anne Danahy 
In this primary race, you've consistently been lower in the polls and not a front runner. Why do you think that is?

Jake Corman 
I think the leader in the polls, during this whole campaign, is the undecided voter. That's been clear. And so therefore, you know, it's my job and every candidate's job to go out and make their case to the undecided voter. I think you see the people for the most part, who are a little bit ahead in the polls — although we're all very close — are the people who spent the most money, which isn't certainly, you know, new to government and politics. And so, but it still there's a huge undecided voter. We are making our case, to the end. I think my experience is a differentiator for me, as I said before, and we will continue to make that case to the end.

Anne Danahy 
And you've talked about jobs and job opportunities and making that a priority. What specific steps would you take if you were elected governor to improve those job opportunities in Pennsylvania?

Jake Corman 
Great question. I mean, that's the most important thing. So I think first we start out by embracing the energy economy. Pennsylvania has a tremendous amount of natural resources. We have access to markets, we have higher education, intellectual capital, second to none in the world that's created here in Pennsylvania every year. Everybody should want to locate in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, we've had a governor for the last eight years, who's ideologically driven against fossil fuels. And so therefore, the big opportunity for growth of jobs in Pennsylvania has been lost because he refuses to embrace it and to find ways to be creative to create jobs. I will change that. I will make sure we are creative, just as we were with a tax credit program that located the Beaver Cracker Facility in Beaver County by Royal Dutch Shell, just as we did by creating a tax credit incentive policy in Luzerne County, a $6 billion investment, 4,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs. We shouldn't have two examples, we should have a hundred. You know, whether people like it or not, you know, fossil fuels are going be part of our future for decades to come on this planet. And either we can have dictators around the world who hate us who will spike the energy costs for American consumers, as we've seen now with what's going on in Russia and Ukraine. Or we could produce it domestically, what we do environmentally better than any other place in the world. We can create the jobs here and benefit from it here.

Anne Danahy
And Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom when it comes to higher education funding per student. When it comes to post secondary education, whether we're talking about a technical school or a four year degree what, if anything, do you think Pennsylvania should be doing differently to make it more affordable?

Jake Corman
Well, I think first of all, I think it's important that we don't drive everyone to a four year degree. You know, I was at Lackawanna College, just recently, where they have an energy program, where after two years of this essentially Community College, after two years, you essentially have three to five years of experience, and you go into the workforce almost immediately at $70-$80,000 a year. You know, I think our higher education facilities, particularly the public ones should post online — if you get this degree, what are your earnings potential for the next three to five years so that people can make the decision. You know, do I want to have this kind of college debt and have this type of degree, or do I want to do something like Lackawanna County College, and you know, be able to have hardly any debt and go right into the workforce making this? So, you know, I think it's important that we embrace all types of levels of education of higher education learning. That's why I've been a big strong supporter of locally of our, of our trade schools and our vo-tech schools that provide adult programming for people to get back into the workforce and get this skill with very little college debt, something they can do, why they're working full time. So clearly, I've been a stronger supporter of funding of higher education, probably in the legislature for the last 20 years, I will continue to do that. You know, that was my entree into the workforce getting a degree at Penn State. But not everyone should go to a four year school. And I think, matching up what your earnings potential with what the cost is, is important for people, parents and children and students to make a decision on where they want to go and what type of workforce they need. And maybe transitioning some of our State System schools, which have been struggling, into one-year type of degree schools so that people can get a trade school. That is probably the biggest issue that I've heard from the State Chamber — is getting a skilled workforce. And so it's important that we develop that skill set, and I don't know that we need a four year or even a two year degree to make that happen. And so it's time for to us to get the business community and the education community working together to develop the workforce that we need for the future.

Anne Danahy 
And we have a few seconds left. In a couple sentences, what would your top priority be if you were elected?

Jake Corman 
Well, my top priority is jobs and freedoms. Two years ago, this probably would have sounded like the cliche. But over the last two years, we had a governor tell us, you know, who could go to work and who couldn't go to work, you know. Whose job was essential and whose job wasn't essential. We had a president of the United States tell us, you get vaccinated or get fired. That's an amazing thing to have in the United States of America. We're not talking about Russia and Putin, we're talking about the United States of America where our leaders are dictating our lives, which is something that we're not used to, and should never, ever happen again. And that's why we passed legislation to make sure that no governor can do what Tom Wolfe did, Republican or Democratic governor of the future. It's important that we protect our freedoms, to give people opportunities as it gets to jobs. Because you're not truly free, if you don't have economic security. It's important that we create an environment that businesses are going to want to invest in Pennsylvania, locate in Pennsylvania, to create the jobs for the people in Pennsylvania, so they can support their families and support their businesses.

Jake Corman 
And finally, I just want to mention, you know, we have a real crime problem in Pennsylvania. You know, the spike — ever since the riots of 2020. We've really seen this progressive movement of not holding people accountable has really spiked our crime problem in Pennsylvania. That's why I'm so proud of the statewide FOP recommending my candidacy. And because again, we can't have freedom, we can't have good jobs, if we don't have safe communities. And as governor, I will lead that fight with our men and women in uniform to make sure our communities are safe.

Anne Danahy 
Senator Jake Corman thank you for talking with us.

Jake Corman 
Thank you. Always a pleasure to be with you Anne.

Anne Danahy
We’ve been talking with Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination to be Governor in Pennsylvania’s May 17th primary. The Democratic primary is not competitive. WPSU invited all of the Republican candidates for interviews. We’ll hear from more of them next week. To listen to this and other episodes of Take Note, go to wpsu.org/Take Note.

I’m Anne Danahy. WPSU.