Allegheny grad returns to make case for being next governor

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May 27—Jason Richey, a Pittsburgh-area attorney and a 1993 Allegheny College graduate, wants to be Pennsylvania's next governor.

A partner at Pittsburgh's K&L Gates law firm, he said he wants to lead "The Great Pennsylvania Comeback" as the GOP candidate in 2022.

"I was very upset by the way COVID was handled by the current administration," Richey said in a campaign stop Wednesday at the Tribune on why he's jumped into the governor's race.

There has been an abuse of emergency powers by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, during the pandemic, according to Richey.

Richey said ordering COVID-positive patients to be readmitted to nursing homes when then-Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine took her own mother out of a nursing home was a signal.

The arbitrariness of what businesses could remain open and those that had to close was another factor.

"It was the arbitrary use of power — picking winners and losers," he said. "You certainly have emergency powers (as governor), but you don't have the power to arbitrarily use them in that manner."

The General Assembly passed a resolution to curb the governor's actions, but Wolf then vetoed the measure — an action that was upheld by the Democrat-led Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Richey said.

Richey added that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro failed to protect Pennsylvanians by not trying to curb Wolf's actions or investigating how the pandemic was handled.

Richey thinks he stands out from a growing field of potential Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Richey, who formally announced his candidacy for governor last week, is one of four declared candidates for the Republican nomination next year. Former congressman Lou Barletta from Hazelton also has announced, as have Joe Gale, a Montgomery County commissioner, and Jason Monn, a restaurant owner from Corry who is a former member of its city council and the city's former mayor. Though he hasn't officially entered the race, state Sen. Doug Mastriano said last week that former President Donald Trump asked him to run and promised to campaign for him.

"I'm an outsider. You can't trusted the politicians to do something different," said Richey, who has not sought any political office before. "I'm coming in to fix problems that have been longstanding."

The candidate has a 12-point plan to get the state to grow.

"Pennsylvania has been on a 40- to 50-year decline," he said. "We're losing population because we're not competitive with other states."

Richey points to a bloated state government — including the most expensive and largest full-time Legislature in the country with 253 legislators between the state House and Senate.

He wants to cut the size of the Legislature and is willing to call for a state constitutional convention to do so.

To change the size of the House or Senate, the chambers would have to approve a constitutional amendment. Each chamber would have to pass identical versions of a bill in two consecutive legislative sessions, then have voters approve it in a statewide referendum.

"I'm running on this issue. I've put it in writing," he said. "When I win the people will have spoken, the people, in my view, have spoken and I will have a mandate to reduce it. It will require a constitutional amendment."

Richey said he'd call for a constitutional convention to reform Pennsylvania's Constitution to update it and shrink the size of the Legislature.

Richey wants to eliminate Pennsylvania's personal and business income taxes to attract both businesses and families to the state. Elimination of those taxes would require about $15 billion in other revenue, but wouldn't go into effect for 18 months, he said.

The 18-month implementation delay would have a two-fold purpose, he said. It would allow Pennsylvania to shrink the size of government during that timeframe and it would provide time for businesses and families to move into the state.

The increase in business and resident population would make up the $15 billion through sales and other types of consumption taxes, he said.

"The dynamic effect of more people coming (to Pennsylvania), the dynamic effect of more people having more money in their pocket and spending more and the reduction in the size of government will allow us to go to zero personal income tax and business tax," he said. "It will unleash the economic power this state possesses."

Richey will push for election reform as well.

He wants to eliminate mail-in voting except for absentee balloting, but make voting in person available for two days instead of one.

He said two days of in-person voting is a compromise with mail-in balloting eliminated.

Richey is a native of Aliquippa in Beaver County, according to his campaign biography.

A graduate of Hopewell Area High School, he attended Allegheny College and graduated magna cum laude and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa society. He was a three-time NCAA Academic All-American as a member of the Allegheny wrestling team. He was only the third wrestler in program history to record at least 100 wins.

After college, he worked in an Aliquippa steel mill to help pay his way through law school at Ohio State University.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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