First things first for Pa. gov.-elect
Josh Shapiro hasn’t even moved into the governor’s office yet and already political prognosticators are sizing up his chances of attaining even higher office.
A Washington Post analysis over the weekend added Pennsylvania’s incoming chief executive to their list of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates for 2024.
In his first appearance on the running tally sheet, Shapiro was slotted at No. 9, between a pair of fellow state leaders: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker at No. 10 and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer. (President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were ranked first and third, flanking Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.)
On the one hand, recognition of Shapiro’s credentials is welcome and deserved.
“Few candidates earned as many plaudits in 2022 as the Pennsylvania governor-elect,” the Post wrote, citing Shapiro’s high favorability numbers and wide margin of victory over Republican opponent Doug Mastriano.
That’s true enough. His record of standing up to entrenched interests as the state’s attorney general these past six years, along with his consensus-building service as a county and state official, made for the type of substantive candidacy that voters are too often denied.
Consider failed GOP hopefuls like Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Georgia Senate contender Herschel Walker and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, who sought a U.S. Senate seat right here in Pennsylvania. Each had hoped to ride media celebrity and the backing of former President Donald Trump to office absent any political or elective office experience.
Shapiro, conversely, spent two-plus decades devoted to public service. His request for Pennsylvanians’ votes came with a lengthy resume and a legitimate record of accomplishment.
Add to that Pennsylvania’s status as perhaps the most consequential swing state in the nation, and it’s easy to see why Shapiro’s political stock is on the upswing. As the Post noted, “you can bet a guy who just won so dominantly in such a key state is high on many Democrats’ lists.”
All well and good. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Shapiro, after all, was still naming members of his transition team at the time the Post story was published and won’t even take the oath of office for another month. As he fills key posts in his new administration, a parcel of important issues awaits his attention:
-A sluggish economy. The Brookings Institute, which has been monitoring the state’s economic innovation and performance, wrote last month that Pennsylvania “is struggling with mediocre productivity and income growth trends.” Shapiro has called for tax cuts, especially for small businesses, as among his tools to grow the economy. Clearly, more than that will be needed.
-Public safety. The rash of gun violence in Philadelphia has become a national flashpoint on the issue. The governor-elect will need to follow through on his stated intention of working with the legislature to increase funding and accountability for police officers. And then some.
-Public education. As is the case nationwide, Pennsylvania’s students have seen classroom achievement stumble in the wake of pandemic-related challenges. Inequitable and insufficient funding for public schools have been cited as contributing factors and candidate Shapiro endorsed addressing those shortfalls. He has also been open to discussing so-called “lifeline scholarships” for students in the state’s worst-performing schools in terms of math and reading outcomes.
-Reproductive and voting rights. Should Democrats maintain their surprise majority in the state House, Shapiro will likely wield his veto pen less often than anticipated. But he will still need to be a voice for defense and expansion of these important individual rights.
So, all in all, the incoming governor has plenty to keep him busy without the distractions of Washington’s political handicappers. Fortunately, he recognizes this.
“I’m focused on being governor,” he said in a post-election radio interview. “I just asked the good people of Pennsylvania for their trust. They gave me that trust.”
Now is a time of public service for the 49-year-old governor-elect. The politics can wait.