GOP candidate Gerow may be a political outsider, but "knows what's going on inside"
Charlie Gerow tends to live by former President Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
In a crowded GOP primary for Pennsylvania governor, Gerow thinks he has found a way to stand out without attacking the other competitors in his party.
"I'm a political outsider, but I know what's going on inside," he said during a phone interview with the USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania Capital Bureau.
He realizes many people may not describe him as an outsider, given that he has been involved in the public policy debate for more than 40 years.
What Gerow means is that he hasn't held elected office in Pennsylvania.
Instead, he's worked behind the scenes as a Republican strategist and former lobbyist to shape the public policies that govern Pennsylvania life.
He also has experience at the federal level, starting his political career as an aide on Reagan's campaign.
Gerow is also a member of the Republican State Committee, a delegate to the Republican National Committee, vice chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference and the American Conservative Union.
His conservative credentials have been well established through weekly television news appearances and other media interviews.
Gerow thinks he can also use his experience as the CEO of Quantum Communications, a Harrisburg marketing and public relations firm, to "win in the battle for our ideas."
There's also another way he stands out in the race. The 66-year-old Cumberland County resident believes he is the first Latino to seek the governor's seat as a Republican in Pennsylvania.
He was adopted by American missionaries when he was a toddler living in a slum in Brazil.
"I was very blessed to be able to come to Pennsylvania, the crucible of democracy, to live in a state and country full of freedom and opportunity," Gerow said. "If I hadn't been brought here, my opportunities would have been near zero."
He's lived in Pennsylvania throughout his life, and his experience as an immigrant is important to him — especially the citizenship test.
Gerow wants to require all graduating seniors from every Pennsylvania high school to pass a citizenship test, which includes questions about the basic principles of American democracy, the U.S. Constitution, the nation's history and more.
"I think it would be a huge benefit to Pennsylvania," he said.
Gerow also wants to reverse the brain drain and exodus of educated, young workers leaving Pennsylvania.
"We need to convince younger people their best opportunities are here in Pennsylvania," he said.
As governor, he would push for a tax structure that makes job creators come to Pennsylvania, allow workers to keep more of what they earn and clean up public corruption, Gerow said.
Democrats say policies and proposals of the Republican-led Legislature, such as anti-abortion bills and anti-LGBTQ+ bills, are uninviting to young workers.
"I haven't had one person say to me that's why they were leaving Pennsylvania for Texas, South Carolina, Arizona and Florida, which have more stringent rules than we do," he said.
Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Texas are among the top 10 fastest-growing states in the nation, according to U.S. Census data.
Pennsylvania is among the states losing the most residents, according to the same data. The population decline is attributed to multiple factors, including that Pennsylvania is an aging state.
Gerow thinks it's also because of Democratic policies.
Though Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is finishing his second term, Republicans have been in control of the Legislature for more than a decade.
Gerow wants to be elected and have a supermajority in the state capital that can "get things done."
And he's expecting to see voters in record numbers at the polls this year — a turnout he believes will benefit Republicans.
"Voters are really angry and frustrated about losing freedoms during the pandemic and now suffering through the Biden economy," Gerow said. "They want a positive change for the future."
The self-described happy warrior hopes he can be that positive change. He's competing for the job against about a dozen Republicans who want to succeed Wolf, including former Congressman Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and former Congresswoman Melissa Hart.
Rising inflation and the economic side effects of COVID-19 could prop up the campaigns of the Republicans in the race, according to analysts, while the fight to protect voting rights and a woman's right to choose is expected to help unrivaled Democrat Josh Shapiro, the current attorney general.
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