A former Montco Republican has joined Pa.’s crowded AG race as a Forward Party candidate

Former GOP N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang formed the party hoping to establish a viable third option for candidates.

Eric Settle posing with Christine Todd Whitman

Eric Settle, left, signed a pledge alongside former N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, right, to represent the Forward Party in the Pa. attorney general race at a press conference in Philadelphia on March 26, 2024. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

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A former Republican from Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County joined a crowded field of candidates in the state attorney general’s race — but not as a newly-minted Democrat.

Eric Settle is running as a Forward Party candidate.

“Today it is time to move forward,” Settle said at Tuesday morning’s press conference. “Today, I’m honored to help lead a new movement that looks at both major parties and says there must be a better way to solve problems.”

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The Forward Party, a self-proclaimed centrist political party launched in 2022, announced Settle’s bid with coinciding events in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Former Democrat Chris Foster from Allegheny County is running for treasurer as Settle’s running mate, making Foster and Settle the party’s first two statewide candidates.

“This will not be easy. When you’re trying to build something new there will be skepticism and hostility,” Settle said at Independence Hall. “And if we are successful there will be attacks by the established parties, because the status quo works for them but not for you.”

Settle, who most recently served on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team, got his start in politics working as deputy general counsel under former Gov. Tom Ridge.

He later ran for Congress but decided to step back and focus on raising his family and saving for retirement.

“If I was fortunate enough to do that, I would revisit my dream,” Settle said. “But then when that moment arrived, the political landscape had drastically changed. As a Republican, the party of Trump had made me both uncomfortable and unelectable. And for my Democratic friends, as an older white male, I did not fit the candidate profile of the [Democrat’s] new progressive approach.”

Settle categorized himself as “a lifelong centrist,” saying he values a progressive approach to social issues while remaining conservative with the economy. He said the Forward Party acknowledges that finding common ground solutions to issues such as climate change, public safety and abortion rights is difficult.

Eric Settle speaking at a podium
Eric Settle, a Montgomery County attorney, announced his candidacy for Pennsylvania attorney general as the Forward Party nominee on March 26, 2024, at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

“Not finding a way to solve these problems is unacceptable,” Settle said. “But that’s what is happening right now, because in our current political environment to compromise — is to capitulate to your enemy.”

Settle cited his experience working under the Ridge administration as evidence of his capabilities. In that role, he tackled issues such as health care and the environment. He said his experience as a lawyer in the private sector gives him a “unique perspective.”

Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, co-chair of the Forward Party, formally introduced Settle at the press conference before directing him to sign a pledge committing himself to the party’s principles.

“The Forward Party doesn’t have a set of standards that you have to meet in the sense of you have to be one way or another on any individual issues,” Whitman said. “What we require is that our candidates represent the people — the people of their state — the people of their community, they agree to uphold the law [and] respect the Constitution.”

Whitman and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang started the Forward Party with the hope of establishing a viable third option for candidates. However, the party has faced an uphill battle running campaigns. The party has pushed for election reforms, including open primaries and ranked-choice voting.

Craig Snyder, political director of the Forward Party of Pennsylvania, said the party hopes to attract voters who are looking for “common ground solutions.”

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Depending on the percentage of the vote a candidate secures in the general election, the Forward Party could be a more permanent fixture on the ballot.

“We think the time is exactly right. People are looking for this,” Snyder said. “There’s an exhausted majority in the United States politically, and we think we can help wake them up.”

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