(*Updated, 3:19 p.m., 5/27/20 to include information and comment from the youth voter group NextGen Pennsylvania, which also endorsed Biden)
Barely two weeks ahead of Pennsylvania’s June 2 primary, Gov. Tom Wolf has given his formal endorsement to former Vice President Joe Biden, putting a spotlight on the important place the Keystone State occupies in the Democrats’ 2020 White House strategy.
“This November, Pennsylvanians have a choice in who will navigate us through the long, arduous process of recovery,” Wolf said in a statement obtained by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. “I believe that Joe Biden is the strong, steady, leader who can best heal our deep divides and enact legislation to lift up all working Pennsylvanians. Now more than ever, Pennsylvania needs a partner in Washington. We need a champion for our working families, who can make quality health care and education accessible to all families, and won’t boost corporations and rich CEOs at the expense of middle-class people in our state. I’m proud to endorse Joe Biden for President because we desperately need strong leadership in the Oval Office.”
Wolf joined Biden, who has roots in Scranton, for a town hall on Biden’s campaign website on Wednesday morning, where they discussed the state-level impact of COVID-19. Through midday Tuesday, Pennsylvania had 68,637 cases of the illness, with 5,152 confirmed fatalities.
As of Friday, 17 counties are set to enter the “green” phase of the state’s reopening plan, with eight more, including Dauphin County, home to Harrisburg, set to enter the “yellow” phase.
Biden told Wolf, who has enjoyed steady public support for this management of the pandemic that he’d “always have your back,” if he wins election in November. Wolf has been subject to a steady drumbeat of criticism from legislative Republicans and business leaders who have viewed his policies as arbitrary and lacking transparency.
In what appeared to be a clear shot at President Donald Trump, who has been disdainful of wearing face masks in public to contain the spread of the virus, Biden said, “Wearing one of these masks when you’re outside the house is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of protecting other people … not just yourself.
Biden holds an average 6.5 percent lead in Pennsylvania, according to the RealClear Politics polling average. Trump carried the state by barely a percentage point in 2016.
In a statement, Vonne Andring, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, was sharply critical of Wolf “taking time away,” from managing the COVID-19 pandemic to hold a campaign event with Biden.
“We wonder if they’ll share a good laugh about Governor Wolf’s secretive waiver process, which allowed select businesses to open but forced others to close, without rhyme or reason. We hope the Governor brags to the VP about his “one-size-fits all” shut down of our economy, which turned a budget surplus into a $5 billion budget deficit. For all of this, we hope VP Biden applauds the Governor, so that average Pennsylvanians may understand what’s to come for Pennsylvania under a Biden/Wolf/Levine regime,” Andring said.
*Wolf’s endorsement came the same day that NextGen Pennsylvania, the youth voter-oriented advocacy group founded by former 2020 hopeful Tom Steyer, also endorsed Biden.
“More than anyone, young people know the stakes of this election — and the choice this year is
clear,” spokesperson Sarah Eagan said in an email. “The Trump administration has laid bare unsustainable inequality and normalized countless injustices in this country. Joe Biden has made it clear that as president he will listen to young people, appoint progressive leaders, and revive a spirit of progress after four years of reckless backsliding. Young Pennsylvanians will be instrumental in making that change.”