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The Republican race for Pennsylvania governor: WPSU talks with Charlie Gerow

  • Anne Danahy/StateImpact Pennsylvania
Charlie Gerow campaigning in Hershey, Pa.

CharlieforGovPA / Twitter

Charlie Gerow campaigning in Hershey, Pa.

The Democratic primary for Governor is not competitive in Pennsylvania this year. But nine Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to be governor. WPSU invited all those candidates for interviews leading up to the May 17 primary. Here’s the conversation WPSU’s Anne Danahy had with Charlie Gerow.

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 
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

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