Skip Navigation

The Republican race for Pennsylvania governor: WPSU talks with Bill McSwain

  • Anne Danahy/StateImpact Pennsylvania
FILE - Bill McSwain takes part in a forum for Republican candidates for governor of Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Camp Hill, Pa., Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FILE - Bill McSwain takes part in a forum for Republican candidates for governor of Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Camp Hill, Pa., Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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 Bill McSwain.

Anne Danahy 
Bill McSwain, thank you so much for talking with us.

Bill McSwain 
Thanks for having me.

Anne Danahy 
You’re a former U.S. attorney and a Marine veteran from Chester County. And you’re also one of about nine candidates in the race. You all agree on some of the issues. What sets you apart from the other candidates?

Bill McSwain 
Well, one of the things that sets me apart is what you mentioned, I’m the only Marine in the race, and I bring a mission-oriented Marines mentality to fixing a lot of the problems that we’re facing as a state. I’m also the only prosecutor in the race. As you mentioned, I’m a former United States attorney, I was appointed by President Trump to be the chief federal law enforcement officer in the eastern part of the state during his administration. And perhaps most importantly, I’m the only leading candidate who is a conservative outsider. I have never run for office before. The other leading candidates are all politicians. They’re all folks that are essentially running on promises they’ve already broken. And I am different. I am the conservative outsider in the race.

Anne Danahy 
You had asked former President Donald Trump for his endorsement in this race, and instead he said he would not be endorsing you. And then he criticized you for not taking action on his false claims of election fraud. Do you still consider yourself to be a Trump supporter?

Bill McSwain I would say that I’m very proud of my record as U.S. attorney, and I was proud to serve in his administration, and proud that he appointed me and entrusted me with a very important job. There’s really no more important job than public safety. And that’s what I was responsible for. In a district of about 6 million people, about half the population of the state. I put rioters and looters in jail when Philadelphia rioted in the summer of 2020. I stopped heroin injection sites, from invading Pennsylvania neighborhoods, I put corrupt public officials in jail. I put violent criminals in jail when the district attorney of Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, refused to do his job. I fought back against Philadelphia’s dangerous sanctuary city policies. And I’m the only candidate with any law enforcement experience. And I think that’s important, especially with so many areas of the Commonwealth, that are suffering through a public safety crisis right now.

Anne Danahy 
What about the Donald Trump part of that question, though. Do you still see yourself as a supporter of him or what he stands for?

Bill McSwain 
I thought he was an excellent president, I thought that his policies did a lot of good for the nation and for Pennsylvania. And certainly when it comes to the law and order agenda, I was proud to to serve his law and order agenda, and I support his law and order agenda. Absolutely.

Anne Danahy 
And you’ve been a critic of teachers unions, and a supporter of more school choice for parents that would let them choose where to send their children. What would you say to a taxpayer who says I don’t want my tax dollars going to a private school.

Bill McSwain 
Choice does not mean that public education is not a choice. I’m a product of public education, I support public education. So what school choice does, it puts the money in the hands of the families, and then they can make the right choice for their family, which very well could include public education. If your public school down the block is functioning — well, great, go to your public school. My kids have gone to public schools, and my wife and I went to public schools. But if the public school down the block isn’t functioning, we don’t want children to be trapped in a failing public school. If you give them choice, that’s going to bring competition and accountability to education, which is going to raise everybody’s game, including the public schools. And then you’ll have a choice between the public school, a private school, a parochial school, a charter school, maybe even homeschooling. Competition is something that always results in a better product or a better service at a lower price. And we need to introduce that common sense concept into something like education, because it’s one of the most important things in our society. So we need to bring all of those common sense principles that work in all aspects of our society, we need to bring that to education as well.

Anne Danahy 
And you said you want to overturn Act 77, which was bipartisan legislation that passed before the COVID 19 pandemic, making it easier to vote by mail. And you’ve said Act 77 caused chaos and confusion. For a lot of voters, though it meant not having to stand in line. And that was particularly important during the pandemic. Why do you think Pennsylvania can’t do this or shouldn’t do it?

Bill McSwain 
Well, the first reason that it can’t do it or shouldn’t do it is that it’s unconstitutional. And right now there’s a Commonwealth Court decision that says it’s unconstitutional. So we are currently laboring under a system of our elections that is unconstitutional, and that causes people to lose faith in the system. So it is unconstitutional in my mind, but if the act still exists, when I’m governor, I would work to repeal it. I don’t think we need to have the unnecessary confusion and chaos of mail-in ballots. I don’t think it is an unreasonable burden for people to actually go to the polls. But we need to make sure that we’re also funding our election system so that there aren’t super long lines at the polls. And one thing I would also consider is making election day a holiday — having more people participate in the election. And I believe in the sanctity of the voting booth, nobody in the voting booth can influence you, nobody in the voting booth can fill out your ballot for you or even suggest how you fill it out. Nobody can illegally collect it for you. As Governor Wolf even gave his ballot to his wife illegally and had her drop it off for him illegally. All of that confusion and complication and illegality goes away when you have the sanctity of the voting booth. If people are out of town or they’re unable to get to the polls or because of physical infirmities or, or other conflicts, or if they’re of course, if you’re in the military, of course you can vote absentee. That’s fine. But millions of able bodied, present Pennsylvanians should not be mailing in their ballots. I think it’s actually a good way to participate in democracy to leave your home and go to the polls and see your neighbors and and see the candidates and actually participate in democracy.

Anne Danahy 
In a few sentences, what would you say your top priority is, if you are elected governor?

Bill McSwain 
My No. 1 priority is safeguarding and protecting Pennsylvanians’ freedoms. Freedoms have been violated, they’ve been taken away, our government is too big, it is too intrusive. We need to make sure that we protect freedom and individual rights, and we need to — all related to that is protecting public safety, getting our economy moving and coming out of this pandemic and having Pennsylvania be an economic leader instead of an economic laggard. And connected to that as well is school choice. Because when we when we prepare our children for the future by making sure that they have true educational opportunity. And then fourth, I would say election integrity is a very important issue as well. So all of those fall under the banner of freedom, whether we’re talking about the economy, education, public safety or election integrity. But the No. 1 issue is protecting Pennsylvanians’ freedoms.

Anne Danahy 
Bill McSwain, thank you so much for talking with us.

Bill McSwain 
Terrific. Thanks for having me.

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next
Climate Solutions

Pennsylvania governor candidates show support for fossil fuels, ignore climate in runup to primary