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Politics & Government

Melissa Hart says economy's key in governor's race, with abortion and election integrity less urgent

Melissa Hart
Courtesy of the campaign

Melissa Hart, who launched her bid for Pennsylvania governor this week, says her past political experience in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. makes her an ideal Republican candidate to lead the commonwealth.

“I understand the interplay between the state and federal government,” she said in an interview with WESA. “And I intend to use everything that I’ve learned and hit the ground running as governor if I’m elected.”

Hart went to Harrisburg as a state Senator in 1991 and served for a decade before running for Congress, where she served three terms representing Pittsburgh suburbs and outlying counties until 2007. Since then, she’s worked as a Pittsburgh attorney in private practice — which she believes is a valuable perspective in the 2022 race because “a lot of people see government as static and not helpful.”

Whoever is elected governor this fall could easily be the deciding voice on a host of policies — including key issues like abortion and election security.

For nearly two terms, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has blocked anti-abortion legislation passed by the Republican-controlled legislature from going into effect. And his administration has repeatedly stood by the integrity of the 2020 election as Republicans, led by former President Trump, pushed baseless claims of massive voter fraud.

The U.S. Supreme Court is widely expected to rule on whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that guaranteed the right to an abortion, should be overturned. And Republicans in Harrisburg are pursuing an “audit” of the 2020 election.

But while those issues loom large over the 2022 campaign, Hart showed little interest in discussing them with WESA.

In Congress, Hart was a vocal foe of abortion rights. But while Hart says that she “has a long track record of being pro-life,” abortion “is not an issue before us at the moment” and said she’s more focused on the state’s shrinking population.

“I’m running as a person who is disappointed with the service that we’ve gotten from many of our public servants over the last decade and the lack of attention to the fact that the state is shrinking,” she said. “It’s important for us to examine the reasons why people are leaving and try to reverse those.”

When asked if she believed there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, Hart expressed concerns over how ballots were handled in a very close Mon Valley state Senate race. That dispute largely involved legal questions about whether to count mail-in ballots that voters neglected to date, rather than outright fraud. Hart declined to address whether she believes widespread fraud took place in 2020, saying, “That’s not relevant to why I’m running for office.”

“It’s not on my list of concerns at this time. I think that the voter rolls need to be clearly reexamined and attended to regularly and it’s a job of state government to do that,” she said. “The backward thinking that you’re asking me to do is really not part of my campaign.”

Hart is the first woman to join a crowded field of Republican candidates including former Congressman Lou Barletta, and state Senator Jake Corman. So far, Democrat Josh Shapiro is running unopposed in the May primary. If she wins, she would be Pennsylvania's first female governor.