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GOP candidates face off in first Pa. gubernatorial debate at Dickinson College

"No mandates, no lockdowns...you provide people with information and treat them like adults"; COVID-19 mandates and regulations were hot topics at tonight's debate.

CARLISLE, Pa. — More than a dozen Republican candidates looking to replace Governor Tom Wolf faced off in the first debate ahead of next year's gubernatorial election. The event took place at Dickinson College in Cumberland County on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

The first topic of discussion was how to stop Pennsylvanians from leaving the commonwealth and improve the economy.

"We're going to draw these businesses in, do a business tax break and that's how we're going to make Pennsylvania great again," said John Ventre, a retired UPS executive from West Moreland County. "I plan to make Pennsylvania the Texas of the northeast."  

"Lower taxes, sensible regulation, and I'd add a third length to that and that is cleaning up public corruption," said Charlie Gerow, who is an Attorney & Vice chair at ACU from Cumberland County.

COVID-19 and mandates were also hot topics, with most candidates saying they would allow Pennsylvanians to choose their own policies. 

"No mandates, no lockdowns," said Guy Ciarrocchi, the Chester County Chamber President. "You provide people with information and treat them like adults." 

Jason Monn, a restaurant owner and the former mayor of Corry in Erie County, expressed similar views. 

"Yes, there is a point where you have to worry about the safety of the whole, no doubt about that," he said. "But allowing people to be adults, allowing them to make these decisions, and choose for themselves, whether they want to go into a business or not go into a business...I think we have to trust that Pennsylvanians do the right thing."

Candidates were also asked about the biggest issue Pennsylvania faces. For Joe Gale, a Montgomery County Commissioner, it is election integrity.  

"I will restore faith in our election system by doing away with mail-in voting, pushing for voter ID [and] restoring traditional absentee ballots, so you all can have faith in our election process in Pennsylvania," said Gale.

Meanwhile, the likely Democratic nominee is Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania's two-term attorney general. 

The primary election is May 17. 

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