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Third-party candidates file to run for Pennsylvania governor, Senate

Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania third-party candidates for governor and U.S. Senate have filed paperwork ahead of a Monday deadline to get on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, potentially making a crucial difference in the high-stakes races.

Three parties — the Keystone Party, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party — all have candidates who filed voter signatures for governor and U.S. Senate, according to the state's online candidate list.

Pennsylvania's threshold for third-party candidates to qualify for the ballot is 5,000 signatures of registered voters.

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A Fox News poll conducted in late July showed Democrats polling higher than Republicans in the two races.

For governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro was outpolling Republican Doug Mastriano, 50% to 40%. For U.S. Senate, Democrat John Fetterman was outpolling the Republican nominee, Dr. Mehmet Oz, 47% to 36%.

The Senate race in Pennsylvania could help determine political control of the closely divided Senate as the parties vie for the seat being vacated by the retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The race for governor has major implications for the future of abortion rights in Pennsylvania and how the election is administered in 2024 in the presidential battleground state.

A third-party candidate’s draw in a general election, while usually very small, could help tilt a close race between the major party candidates.

As a result, Democrats in Pennsylvania have a history of going to court to challenge the paperwork of Green Party candidates to get them off the ballot.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Pennsylvania have a history of going to court to challenge the paperwork of Libertarian Party candidates for the same reason.

Christopher Borick, an assistant professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said there are prominent examples — such as in the 2016 and 2000 presidential elections — of third-party candidates possibly helping to tilt elections.

“That’s the most certain element of third-party impact,” Borick said.

Research suggests that some third-party voters will only show up to vote for third-party candidates, but most of them would vote for a major-party candidate if they lacked a third option, Borick said.

There's also significant interest in such alternatives as dissatisfaction grows with the two major parties, Borick said.

A spokesperson for the newly formed Keystone Party said the organization was formed out of members of the Libertarian Party who felt that party was veering too hard to the right.

The Libertarian Party candidate for Senate is Erik Gerhardt, who runs his carpentry firm in Montgomery County. The party's candidate for governor, Matt Hackenburg, is a computer engineer from Northampton County.

The Keystone Party candidate for Senate is Dan Wassmer, a lawyer in Bucks County who was the Libertarian Party's nominee for attorney general in 2020. The party's candidate for governor is Joe Soloski, a certified public accountant who lives in Centre County.

The Green Party candidate for governor is Christina “PK” DiGiulio, an environmental activist and former Department of Defense chemist. The party's candidate for Senate is Richard Weiss, a lawyer from Allegheny County who was its nominee for attorney general in 2020.