Former U.S. Attorney McSwain joins growing field of GOP candidates for Pa. governor

William McSwain speaks during a news conference

In this Friday, July 12, 2019, file photo, then U.S. Attorney William McSwain speaks during a news conference in Lancaster, Pa. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File)

William McSwain, the former U.S. attorney for Pennsylvania’s eastern district, has officially announced his long-planned bid for the Republican nomination for the commonwealth’s 2022 governor’s race.

He’s pitching himself as a tough-on-crime supporter of police who “put rioters and looters behind bars” as U.S. attorney, and placing himself in firm opposition to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, particularly when it comes to pandemic-mitigation measures like business closures and increased unemployment benefits.

“We will have no forced closings and no state dictates on how Pennsylvanians live their lives,” he said in his first campaign video. “Tom Wolf suffocated our economy, stifled entrepreneurship, and paid people more not to work. That ends when I’m governor.”

McSwain, 52, also promised to impose voter ID for elections, and waded into a national debate over whether systemic racism should be analyzed and taught in schools.

“The radical left wants our schools to indoctrinate our children to believe that America is a racist country,” he said in his campaign video. “I will ensure that our schools teach the founding principles that have made America the greatest country in history.”

Former President Donald Trump appointed McSwain to his U.S. attorney post in 2018. McSwain resigned soon after Trump left office this year, and has since worked for the Philadelphia law firm Duane Morris LLP.

McSwain is a Harvard Law graduate and former Marine infantry officer. Before his appointment as U.S. attorney, he worked as a federal prosecutor and was a partner in the Philadelphia law firm Drinker, Biddle & Reath, mainly focusing on white-collar criminal defense.

He represented conservative causes in several high-profile cases, including one in which he defended the Boy Scouts’ right to exclude gay members.

His tenure as U.S. attorney was marked by vocal opposition to self-identified “sanctuary cities,” like Philadelphia, where officials pledged not to cooperate with federal immigration officials to deport undocumented people.

He clashed repeatedly with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner, opposing a city plan for a supervised opioid injection site and blaming their policies for rising homicide and gun crime rates.

McSwain lives in West Chester with his wife, Stephanie. The couple has four children.

He joins a crowded GOP field that could still get bigger. So far, his opponents include former congressman and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Lou Barletta, conservative strategist Charlie Gerow, and Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale. State Senators Doug Mastriano, Dan Laughlin, and Scott Martin are also expected to join the field.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is widely assumed to be the likely candidate.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal