Capital-Star Q+A: RINO hunter Joe Gale wants to make sure conservatives are energized for 2022

The gubernatorial candidate shared his thoughts on abortion, pensions and Doug Mastriano

By: - September 17, 2021 6:30 am

Joe Gale

An earlier version of this story contained a phrase used by Gale to describe state Sen. Doug Mastriano. The phrase has been altered to address Gale’s concern of an audio glitch. 

Editor’s note: It’s still 2021, but the 2022 field for Pennsylvania governor is starting to develop. The Capital-Star is trying to sit down with as many candidates as possible to ask them about their campaigns, background, and issues impacting Pennsylvanians.

Feel free to email [email protected] with any questions you’d like to see posed to candidates in the future.

Joe Gale is a 32-year-old county commissioner in Montgomery County in suburban Philadelphia.

Gale, who lives in Plymouth Meeting, ran and won the minority seat on the commission in 2015, defeating the county’s Republican establishment, a bastion for moderation, as an unabashed conservative.

After an aborted run for Lieutenant Governor in 2018 — he was too young to hold statewide office — Gale is now running for the Republican nomination for governor. Though a magnet for controversy, he argues his uncompromising ideology and equal disdain for both party’s institutions make him the right man for the job.

Capital-Star: The first question I ask, and I lead off everyone with, is: Why are you running for governor?

Joe Gale: Clearly I see that the midterm elections in 2022 offer frustrated Pennsylvania Republican voters a unique opportunity. And it’s a rare opportunity where there’s an open governor’s seat and United States Senate seat at the same time. That’s a rare occurrence. And obviously, you’re familiar with the Gale brothers’ candidacy? My brother Sean, you know, is running [for U.S. Senate] as well?

C-S: Yes, yeah.

JG: So it’s a very unique opportunity in 2022. But as you know Democrat Governor Tom Wolf is termed out, and there’s a lot of people upset with his performance, and his gross negligence and totalitarian overreach that’s destroyed countless families and businesses across the Commonwealth. And I believe there’s an appetite to have a true common sense conservative governor, and I believe I have a proven track record of delivering common sense conservatism and winning challenging races.

C-S: I noticed that on your campaign website, you talked about Tom Wolf. You also on your campaign website talk a lot about the Republican Party too. You say on your campaign website that as a governor you would “hold bad Republicans accountable not just by naming names by supporting primary challenges against those who undermine a common sense conservative agenda.”

JG: The big difference between myself and all the other Republicans seeking the governorship is that first of all, I believe I’m the only Republican with a path to victory in the general election. 

I believe I’m the only Republican that can defeat the likely Democrat nominee, which is Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, because we were both Montgomery County commissioners together. So we’re from the same home county, and that gives me the ability to stop the bleeding in a heavily Democrat area, which is southeastern Pennsylvania. So I believe I’m the only one that can win, because my numbers will come out well enough in the southeast and make up for it in central and western Pennsylvania, where it’s more Trump country as you know …

… But also, I believe I’m the only Republican that can actually achieve the agenda that [former Governor from 2011 to 2015] Tom Corbett failed to achieve when he was governor, the last Republican governor we had.

C-S: Why is that?

JG: Republicans will most likely maintain control of the majority in the state Senate in the state House. So once again, the ball will be in our court — meaning Republicans will hold the majority in the state Legislature and the governorship. 

So we don’t need a Republican governor that just goes along to get along. We need a Republican governor that has the ability to hold accountable other Republicans in the state Legislature. And because I have total and complete independence from the Republican Party establishment, that gives me the freedom and ability to name names, to publicly hold them accountable, and to threaten primaries in their districts if they don’t get behind the common sense conservative agenda that I believe will help Pennsylvania reach its full potential.

C-S: Well, like Corbett — I feel like one of the things that disrupted Corbett is he was attorney general and he came in and he had bad blood with people in the Legislature due to prosecuting the former GOP Speaker of the House John Perzel. And now, you’re not the attorney general, you won’t have that grudge, but you sound like you know, you are an outsider. Isn’t it possible that some of those same personality beefs that derailed Corbett from being able to achieve a perfect Republican agenda could get in your way if you’re coming in with this very aggressive tone to legislative leaders who’ve been here for a while who knows the process and could, you know, give you a headache if you’re not playing ball with them?

JG: Well, like I said, we don’t need people that just go along to get along. We don’t need a nice personality to go in, where you see a four-year term go by and nothing gets done. In Corbett’s case, the only thing that they did accomplish was the infamous Corbett gas tax, Act 89, which gave Pennsylvania the highest gas tax in the country. 

We desperately need to disrupt the status quo. And clearly, that’s what I would offer. 

I would go in with both parties in Harrisburg, upset, and that’s exactly what the people of Pennsylvania are looking for. They want a governor that will literally use the governorship as a bully pulpit to push forward an agenda that I would push for as governor — but also make sure the Legislature gets behind it. And that’s something that Corbett clearly failed to do. 

There’s a list of things on that conservative agenda that he did not accomplish, the only thing he did accomplish was the gas tax.

C-S: Can you tell me more about what would the Gale administration’s agenda look like? Because [on] your website, I saw a lot of rhetoric about how you see problems with Wolf and you see problems with the institutional Republican Party in Pennsylvania, but what would you want to accomplish as governor? Like, what do you want people to remember you for?

JG: First and foremost is we have to restore election integrity. And that’s immediately repealing Act 77, which is the unconstitutional mail-in voting legislation. The 50 days of no-excuse mail in voting.

So I would repeal that, I would push forward election reform that would require voter identification, restore traditional absentee ballots that require an excuse, signature verification with safeguards in place to make sure that our election process is safe and secure in the Commonwealth. 

And then also, I would immediately push forward again the agenda that Tom Corbett failed to deliver. So I’ll go through some of those. One is privatizing the liquor stores, they failed to get that done properly. Another is pension reform for state employees, moving new hires from defined benefit to defined contribution plans. Paycheck protection — that’s the elimination of public sector union [political contributions] being automatically deducted out of government paychecks. 

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I would fight for property tax reform. For decades, you heard about the elimination of school property taxes. The time to do that was when Corbett was governor with a Republican majority in the Legislature. They failed to get that done.

Prevailing wage reform, to open up the bid process to more independent contractors, so they don’t rely so heavily on unionized labor and trades for these public construction projects that are far too costly.

C-S: You mentioned pension reform, that was only half done, but that was done under Wolf with the Republican legislature.

JG: Exactly.

C-S: How so exactly?

JG: Because Corbett lacked so much leadership, it wasn’t until Wolf became governor where they cut a deal with Republicans in the Legislature. But I believe we have to do more.

The current pension obligations that we have for state employees and retirees is not sustainable. And anyone will tell you that. There’s no way we can keep doing this, so we need to make sure that more new hires that are not already in the retirement plan are on defined contribution plans, similar to the 401(k) style in the private sector.

C-S: My understanding is that is what’s been done for new hires.

JG: We did some pension reform, we need much more.

If you look at the gas tax revenue from Act 89. That was supposed to be dedicated right to maintaining and improving our roads and infrastructure. A significant portion of that went to [the] state police pension system. So they had to use gas tax revenue to plug a gap in the state police pension. So what they’re doing is not working

[Editor’s Note: At least $4.2 billion in gas tax revenue has been transferred to the State Police, but it covers police operating costs, not pension expenses.]

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C-S: You won office in 2015 on your staunch [opposition] to abortion. Would you sign a six week abortion ban with the private enforcement mechanism, similar to what Texas passed and the Supreme Court at least declined to review at this point?

JG: Yes. That’s my number one issue. That’s the reason why I started running for public office. 

I’m staunchly pro-life, and the Montgomery County Republican Committee back in 2015 endorsed a board member of Planned Parenthood. As someone that’s pro-life, a conservative, and a Catholic, I was appalled that the Republican Party in my county would do that. I decided to run unendorsed against them, and ended up winning. That was the biggest upset of Pennsylvania when I won that race back in 2015.

C-S: You said earlier that you think that you could beat Josh Shapiro, that you could compete with him on his home turf as someone who’s also from [Montgomery County] and hold down the west. But — I think this gets to a lot of your political narrative — the thing I push on is you talk about being extremely pro-life. Three of the issues you highlighted as issues you want to address will probably run afoul of labor unions. Unions, abortion rights — those are issues that Democrats campaign on a lot and count on as allies in suburban races. So you taking a conservative tone on these issues, how does that help in the southeast?

JG: I’ve done it. I’ve been a county commissioner, I was sworn into office in January 2016. I have a proven record of fighting these battles — taking on unions, taking on Planned Parenthood, having Planned Parenthood advocates protest me at my county commissioner board meetings, Black Lives Matter in front of my home multiple times.

I have a proven record of fighting for common sense conservatism, and I’m not afraid to speak the truth. You have my election results. I’m a two-term Montgomery County commissioner, a pro-life social conservative is not supposed to exist in the Philadelphia suburbs, but I’m a two-term county commissioner.

Republicans have a problem with suburban voters, Democrats have a problem with rural voters. Where does that leave Pa.’s balance of power?

So obviously, I’m doing something right. And I believe the key to my success politically is, I’m so anti-establishment and independent of my own party that I attract a groundswell of supporters …

… There’s a lot of corrupt Republican party bosses that want Josh Shapiro to be the next governor, and that’s something I communicate to the public every day in my Cup of Joes [private meetings with supporters]. I lay out all the establishment collusion — how Shapiro’s very friendly with Republican party bosses and establishment insiders. 

There’s all this collusion going on. And I’m not part of it. I’m a young guy that they can’t control. That’s what the public’s looking for, and I believe by [sic] the fact that I’m a two-term county commissioner speaks for itself.

C-S: The only thing I point out is there’s a big difference in the way the law is written for statewide races versus the county elections. You have four candidates, everyone gets to vote for two, and then the top three winners get put on the county commission. And you’ve served as a minority commissioner for those two [terms] working without —

JG: Right. Because the reality is it’s a Democrat county. It’s overwhelmingly Democrat voter registration. When I originally ran, Democrats were incumbents. I had an upset in the primary, and the political reality is only one Republican was going to win the minority seat. I wasn’t the choice of the establishment …

… So while other candidates are competing for the backing of the party establishment, I don’t want it, I don’t believe in it, I’m never going to get it. I want the endorsement and the backing of the actual Pennsylvania residents. And I’m confident that I’ve done it successfully in Montgomery County and it’s a scalable model.

C-S: You’ve run radio ads and your campaign website attacks [Franklin County Republican State Sen.] Doug Mastriano. He hasn’t announced but he’s been rumored to be running for governor. He’s floated it, he said Trump was encouraging him, and he’s kinda backtracked. Why are you focusing so much energy in particular on Sen. Mastriano?

JG: Because obviously, as you mentioned, it’s clear by the actions he’s taken that he’s considering a run for governor. And in my opinion, the last thing we should do is promote someone to a higher office who voted for the unconstitutional Act 77 mail-in voting legislation.

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In my opinion, that’s literally the most significant piece of legislation Mastriano and his cronies in Harrisburg ever voted for. I can’t tell you one good thing that the Republicans in Harrisburg have done, but they did unlawfully give us this election law mess. And for him to parade around as the guy that’s going to “stop the steal” and secure our election system is a bunch of nonsense, and he’s a controlled puppet by the GOP swamp. And the last thing we need is a guy that is part of the problem in a higher office. 

So I don’t want to stand on the sidelines and watch that happen. I’m informing the public of what “Doug Mail-in Mastriano” is really all about.

[Editor’s note: The text above was changed from “McDoug Mail-in Mastriano,” to “Doug Mail-in Mastriano.” after Gale claimed it was an audio glitch.]

C-S: Mastriano, you know, has been clashing with people in his own caucus — that’s been in the news, it’s been rather public — over the conduct of the [2020 election investigation]. Is it just possible Mastriano is another outsider with a different view, but an outsider like you?

JG: Oh absolutely not. Look at how he became a state senator. 

He became a state senator through a special election, and a special election is interesting because there is no primary [election]. Voters don’t elect the nominee, the political parties appoint a nominee. So he was appointed by the Republican Party establishment as their nominee for state senate, in a safe seat, in a safe, red district. So they wouldn’t appoint a guy unless they have the ability to control them. 

And if you look at his contributions, he’s taking large contributions from senators like David Argall in Berks and Schuylkill County, who’s a total swamp creature …

[Editor’s Note: Argall donated $15,000 to Mastriano’s campaign last year, though Argall, as a member of leadership, has donated similar sums to most of his colleagues, if not more.]

… So if you’re taking contributions from a guy like that, there’s no way you’re a grassroots candidate that’s not beholden to the party. But he claims to be. A lot of people are fooled by him, and I’m educating them in explaining the truth.

C-S: Are you spending as much time on Senator Mastriano because you think that he’s a threat to your candidacy?

JG: I mean he’s a fraud, and there’s people that are fooled by [him]. So I need to inform people that are fooled by this guy that he’s not all what he claims to be and that he’s part of the problem.

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And at the end of the day, he cannot beat Josh Shapiro. He doesn’t have the personal relationships on the ground with people in southeastern Pennsylvania that I’ve cultivated over the last, you know, seven years.

 C-S: That is everything I wanted to ask so-

JG: Honestly, it’s the same with Lou Barletta. I mean, I call him “Loser Lou.” He’s a proven loser.

He ran for U.S. Senate in 2018 against Bob Casey — he was crushed, he was obliterated. So he’s an old retread that they’re reviving, but if your goal is to sabotage the election and have Josh Shapiro become the next governor, you know it’s a perfect fall guy.

I know conservatives across the state are disgusted with what we’ve seen as statewide Republicans in Pennsylvania, whether it’s Arlen Specter —  the original RINO —  replaced by Pat Toomey who’s worse than Arlen Specter …

… We weren’t energized and motivated to reelect Corbett, and that’s how we ended up with Wolf, and I know that history repeats itself. We’re going to get the same garbage rammed down our throats, and that’s why team Gale is stepping up to the plate.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.