The Lead

Pa. governor candidates would get to pick their running mates under revived Senate bill

By: - April 8, 2019 4:51 pm

The Pa. Lt.Governor’s office in the state Capitol in Harrisburg. (Capital-Star photo by Elizabeth Hardison)

*This story was updated on April 9 to clarify how party running mates are elected in Pennsylvania’s general elections.

An effort to change how Pennsylvania voters pick a lieutenant governor is getting a fresh hearing this year in the Capitol.

A bill that advanced through the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday would amend the state Constitution to let gubernatorial candidates select running mates. It will now go before the full Senate for a vote.

Pennsylvania’s current election laws don’t allow gubernatorial candidates to choose their second-in-command. Instead, candidates for both offices run their own campaigns during the primary elections, and party nominees are listed together on the ballot in the general election.* 

That would change under a bill introduced by Sen. David Argall R-Schuylkill, which would make the process for choosing a lieutenant governor mirror the process for presidential nominees selecting vice-presidential running mates.

Gubernatorial candidates who win their party’s nomination would be able to choose a running mate 90 days before the November general election and would be listed on a ticket with them on the ballot.

The measure passed the Senate unanimously last year but didn’t advance through the House. Since the change requires a constitutional amendment, legislation has to pass both chambers two consecutive legislative sessions, then be ratified by voters at the ballot box.

Argall thinks the new process would avert “potential division and friction” in the state’s executive branch, according to a memo he published seeking support from his colleagues.

His proposal last year followed a well-publicized falling out between Gov. Tom Wolf and former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, stemming from allegations that Stack and his wife verbally abused staff at the state-owned Lieutenant Governor’s residence and misused their State Police-provided security detail.

Wolf stripped Stack of his security detail and asked the state Inspector General to investigate his conduct, resulting in a report that was not made public.

Democratic voters rejected Stack in the May 2018 primary election, when he ran against three other Democrats to be their party’s nominee for lieutenant governor. He was the state’s first incumbent lieutenant governor to lose a reelection bid in a primary.

Current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won the primary election with more than 40 percent of the vote, and campaigned with Wolf through the general election.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.