NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) – The political center of Pennsylvania, at least for Wednesday night, was in New Castle. The Lawrence County Republican Party hosted a debate with candidates for senator and governor.

The senatorial debate itself was cordial. The candidates who participated did not go at each other or criticize each other. It was a Republican debate before a predominantly Republican audience with a Republican moderator.

The debate took place inside New Castle’s nearly 100-year-old Scottish Rite Cathedral. First, a meet and greet was held at the Hickory VFW so candidates could hear from voters.

“It’s really good to be able to put a face to a name. We’re hoping that the people that come today will tell us who they like so that we can be a voice for the people,” said Ginny Richardson, chairperson of the Mercer County Republican Party.

Afterward and once inside the auditorium, former President Donald Trump was the night’s first speaker via videotape.

“Western Pennsylvania, as you know, we did very well there,” Trump said.

Of the lengthy list of Republican candidates running in the Pennsylvania Senate race, only four showed up. TV talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz and Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark, did not participate. But, conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette was there.

“That America that afforded me an opportunity to claw my way and create a different life for myself, that America is fast coming to a close,” Barnette said.

Martin Rosenfeld, a deputy sheriff in Elk County, said his priorities would be term limits, protecting the first and second amendments and in helping Pennsylvania, energy.

“Without the people who’ve built this state and who have, through their tax dollars, supported this state, we’ll never reopen and fully invest our children in a future here,” Rosenfeld said.

Jeff Bartos, who ran unsuccessfully for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor in 2018, had a different priority.

“We need to win this seat to hold and then take back the United States Senate to make sure the filibuster survives the threat that is posed right now,” Bartos said.

Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto agreed with all the priorities, but his focus is the rule of law, saying that people in Pennsylvania are afraid to walk down the street.

“We can’t worry about the filibuster if there’s people out there who want to kill us. We can’t worry about growing Main Street if bands of thugs are looting our stores,” Bochetto said.

All four candidates in the Senate debate were critical of President Joe Biden, calling him radically thinking and misguided and telling the audience he is not king.

Two of the candidates, Barnette and Bartos, also said that China is our number one strategic threat.

Eight Candidates were on hand last night in New Castle to discuss some of the issues facing the Keystone State. Some addressed COVID-19 and how the current administration has handled things.

Participants in the gubernatorial debate:

  • Bill McSwain
  • John Ventre
  • Jason Richey
  • Jake Corman
  • Dave White
  • Charlie Gerow
  • Guy Ciarrocchi
  • Scott Martin
  • Melissa Hart
  • Dr. Nche Zama

“When two weeks to flatten the curve became months, I was the first chamber president to speak out against the lockdowns, because I saw what they were doing to local businesses, to our kids, and to our liberty,” said Guy Ciarrocchi, the CEO of the Chester County Chamber.

“My priority, within 24 hours, is to establish a pandemic management and interceptive medicine council like no other state has and nobody else has been considering,” said cardiotherastic surgeon. Dr. Nche Zama.

Other candidates talked about crime in Pennsylvania.

“Make sure our streets are secure. That our men and women in blue get the funding needed so they can keep our streets safe,” said Founder of D.W. D Mechanical Contractors David White.

While the candidates kept things mild against each other, some made it very clear WHO or WHAT is on the opposing side.

“I believe our nation is in a battle for its heart and soul, and those battle lines run right across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania this year. We can reject the big government, lockdown, shutdown mandate economy of Tom Wolf and Josh Shapiro, and we choose a future of hope, growth and opportunity,” said Founder/Ceo of Quantum Communications Charlie Gerow.

“The heart of Pennsylvania took a direct hit by an administration that thought they could pick the winners and losers by saying your business is essential but yours is not,” said former U.S. Representative Melissa Hart.

“Incompetant, far-left politicians have allowed crime run to rampant. Inflation has robbed our paychecks. Mandates have shut businesses and schools. And our individual right and freedoms are under assault,” former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pa. Bill McSwain.

“Everything that Wolf has done, falls on Shapiro because he is the Attorney General. It’s no different than Fetterman or Kamala Harris advancing to the next level. I got a 20-point check list on Shapiro that I won’t get through,” said retired U.P.S. executive John Ventre.

Jason Richey, an attorney from Pittsburgh, touted what he calls a “12-point plan” to build Pa.’s economy.

“If we bring ourselves down to zero percent income tax, unleash our manufacturing and energy capabilities, we will make Pennsylvania an economic juggernaut, where our kids and grandkids will stay,” Richey said.

The Pennsylvania Primary Election is May 17.