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Trump ties could work against Pa. Republicans in the next election | Opinion

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Glenn Youngkin’s election as governor of Virginia and Pennsylvania’s Republican election victories for judicial officers and in many county races this month, give the GOP strong wind in its sails for 2022. Last week’s victories build on the Pennsylvania Republicans’ success in the 2020 races for auditor general and treasurer.

But if the Pennsylvania GOP wants to win the race for Senator Pat Toomey’s seat and the governor’s mansion, they need to be disciplined and careful that they don’t overplay their recent victories, especially with regard to former President Donald Trump. Even though GOP voters who previously supported President Donald Trump may dominate in primaries, Republican leaders must remember that they cannot prevail in November in our “purple Commonwealth” with too much Trump baggage.

The perceived quality of the candidates will matter to Pennsylvania voters, especially in the suburbs. Voters in Philadelphia’s collar counties, especially Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks are highly educated and involved in civic issues, especially women who are concerned about education and the quality of our lives. Threading the nominating and general election constituency’s needle is what Glenn Youngkin did. Thus, his success.

Yes, the issues are important, but the character of the candidate and the trust that the voters have in the candidate are as important as where they stand on particular issues. That’s why they must pull back from too tight a relationship with former President Trump.

The candidate for governor will be the CEO of Pennsylvania’s government, and should demonstrate management capabilities to restore the Commonwealth government to be efficient and effective in its service to all of us.

Declared GOP gubernatorial candidates include former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, former Chester County Chamber of Commerce CEO Guy Ciarrocchi, attorney Jason Richey, political consultant Charlie Gerow, and Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale. And late last week, Delaware County businessman Dave White, State Sen. Doug Mastriano, and State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman have indicated they are also likely to join the fray. Given the record of those in this past year’s General Assembly, it is unlikely that a Representative in the House or a Senator can win a Commonwealth-wide general election.

» READ MORE: Who is running for governor in Pennsylvania?

Republicans must be very careful when choosing which of these candidates they support in the primary. It is doubtful that Pennsylvania’s independent swing voters will vote for someone too closely aligned with Trump against presumptive Democratic nominee Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is smart, politically astute, and will be very well financed.

For instance, it would be a real problem if Lou Barletta were to win the Republican primary and appear on the general election ballot. He’s been too ardent a supporter for the former president, earning Trump’s endorsement for his 2018 Senate run.

Similar problems exist in the race to fill Pat Toomey’s Senate seat, where Republican contenders include former lieutenant governor candidate Jeff Bartos, conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, 2020 congressional nominee Sean Parnell, and former U.S. ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands. The Republicans should not nominate Sean Parnell, the candidate endorsed by former President Trump. Parnell is currently in a contentious legal battle with his estranged wife who has accused him of abusing their children. He cannot appeal to moderate swing voters, especially educated women, that are needed to win in Philadelphia’s collar counties.

» READ MORE: Who is running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania?

The outcome of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race could well determine which political party has a majority in the Senate, and the majority runs the committees and manages the calendar. To win, the Republicans must nominate a smart, sophisticated person who can win the election, not necessarily win an intra-party debate that looks back to the election of 2020 without regard to litigated facts. Perhaps a successful businessperson who has experience in negotiation would be a good candidate for the GOP — especially since the Democratic candidate could well be what many would consider to be a “career pol.”

Our party has got to stop looking in a rear-view mirror and must concentrate on nominating candidates who can win in the general election and are aligned with traditional Republican positions, especially on the economy and national security.

The candidates for governor and senate must be smart, personable, trustworthy (the most important characteristic), have a record of accomplishment and be knowledgeable about Pennsylvania issues, including our economy, the difficult transportation issues, and tax reform.

Instead of running toward President Trump, Pennsylvania Republicans must consider the daily lives of voters and and appreciate that their party is not a debating society. They must do their principal job–nominate thoughtful candidates who can win in the general election.

Howard Cohen is a lifelong Republican who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations and was Governor Dick Thornburgh’s first Secretary of Revenue. He teaches Power & Negotiations and Business Ethics at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.