HARRISBURG (TNS) — There’s one thing members of the Pennsylvania GOP are learning: Don’t underestimate Rep. Carrie DelRosso.
DelRosso, R-Oakmont, first shook Pennsylvania politics when she unseated long-time House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, a Democrat from Oakmont. The former Oakmont councilwoman hadn’t been involved in politics until 2018, but still beat the 30-year incumbent for the 33rd House District by knocking on 13,000 doors and winning over labor leaders.
Her political career should have been dead this year, after she was drawn out of her district as part of the decennial redistricting process. Instead, she bucked and ran for statewide office as one of nine GOP candidates for lieutenant governor. She won the nomination in May by 130,000 votes.
”Don’t count her out, and don’t underestimate her,” said Sam DeMarco, chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County. “She’s a formidable woman.”
Now, she’ll appear on the November ballot with GOP gubernatorial nominee Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin. Politicos around the state will be watching how Ms. DelRosso balances her own political profile while still championing the message of the controversial Mr. Mastriano.
”This is the central challenge for any running mate,” said Christopher Devine, a professor at the University of Dayton and an author who studies the role of running mates in presidential campaigns. “They’re really in a support role. They’re not there to run their own campaign, they’re there to help the ticket get elected.”
In Pennsylvania, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run individually in the primary election. Individual candidates can endorse who they want to be their running mate in November, but they won’t appear on the same ticket until then. Mastriano, for example, endorsed former congressional candidate Teddy Daniels in hopes that he’d be his running mate in November.
Mastriano has drawn ire from Democrats and even members of his own party since before his win in May. GOP party leaders tried an “11th-hour” attempt to rally around any other candidate to stop him from winning.
And now that he has the nomination, a group of Pennsylvania Republicans announced plans this month to create a political action committee in support of the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
These GOP groups say Mastriano is “too extreme” for Pennsylvania for some of his policies and his rejection of the security and validity of the 2020 presidential election.
Mastriano also has been criticized for going onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. And he has strict views on abortion, including supporting a ban on them after six weeks of gestation, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.
Before entering politics, DelRosso worked for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She left there to care for her three children, but remained active with a number of local nonprofits and associations, she said. The Pitt graduate later opened a small public relations firm.
DelRosso will need to “come his way” on some of Mastriano’s most important issues, Devine said. But she’ll need to maintain somewhat of her political profile to achieve any future political pursuits, no matter the outcome of the November election.
”She can’t totally become a different person and take on a different brand,” Devine said. “She’ll undermine her credibility with voters.”
SHIFTING TOWARD MASTRIANO
DelRosso already has started to shift in Mastriano’s direction, as she tries to strike this balance and win over Mastriano’s committed grassroots supporters.
For example, when asked about Mastriano’s belief that the state’s mail-in voting law should be repealed, his doubts about the accuracy of the state’s elections — and whether she’d stand by the vote once all the ballots are counted — DelRosso sidestepped the question and blamed Democrats for blocking 2020 audit attempts.
”We want truth in our elections, and we’ll make sure that that happens going forward,” DelRosso said, before trying to end the call with a reporter.
DelRosso said she is pro-life, supports the 2nd Amendment, and wants to “restore and promote election integrity.”
”I’m very excited to be running with Sen. Doug Mastriano,” DelRosso said. “We are hand-in-hand, working on this race, and I’m so excited to work with him. I look forward to being the next lieutenant governor.”
Some of the most prominent women governors came to office as a lieutenant governor running mate, Devine said. For example, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul took over as governor after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey also served as that state’s lieutenant governor until Robert Bentley resigned as governor due to a number of scandals in 2017.
Pennsylvania has never had a woman serve as governor. Catherine Baker Knoll, who died in office in 2008, was the state’s first woman lieutenant governor and served under former Gov. Ed Rendell.
The Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, Rep. Austin Davis, D-McKeesport, would be the state’s first Black lieutenant governor if he wins in November.
GREW UP IN SCRANTON
DelRosso grew up in Scranton, before moving to the Pittsburgh area to attend Pitt. She’s been in the area ever since, she said, though she visits Scranton often on the campaign trail.
DelRosso’s appearance on the GOP ticket introduces Mastriano to new constituencies, two experts said.
”It opens up whole new avenues for both of them,” DeMarco said. “Carrie is very strong with the labor movement, Doug Mastriano is very strong with a base of core supporters in the evangelical and patriot movements. I think the two of them are a really great team and cover all the bases.”
DeMarco was among the state Republicans who urged against Mastriano’s nomination, citing poor polling performance. He’s since changed his tune and said he’s met with Mastriano multiple times.
Now he said Mastriano and DelRosso hold “mainstream Republican positions for the most part.”
He also criticized Shapiro’s campaign for supporting Mastriano’s nomination in the primary election.
”If [Shapiro] truly believed he was extreme, what does that say about Shapiro’s ambitions and judgment?” DeMarco said.
Before the primary, Shapiro purchased an ad calling Mastriano “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters.” Shapiro hoped to tip the scales in Mastriano’s favor among a crowded Republican field, believing Mastriano would be the easiest candidate to beat in the general election.
A spokesman for the Shapiro/Davis campaign noted that the ticket is endorsed by more than 11 labor unions, including the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters, Pennsylvania State Council of Sheetmetal Workers and the Pennsylvania Professional Firefighters Association. The Democratic candidates “will always defend the union way of life and fight to protect every worker’s right to organize,” campaign spokesman Manuel Bonder said in a statement.
”As the right hand to Doug Mastriano, Carrie DelRosso is running to enact their ticket’s top priority — banning abortion with no exceptions and jailing doctors — and she is all in on his pledge to rip away workers’ rights and destroy the union way of life,” Mr. Bonder said.
DelRosso is now tasked with “finding a happy medium” between aligning herself with Mastriano and maintaining herself as a more traditional Republican, Devine said.
”Any good campaign is going to stick to a consistent message,” Devine added.
DelRosso has stayed on that message with Mastriano, focusing on a “pro-freedom” message that includes more oversight for parents over what children learn in schools and criticizes current Gov. Tom Wolf for his executive actions to close businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
”The sky’s the limit for her,” DeMarco said.