Photo credit: Paul Hamilton via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

New Poll: Crucial Penn. GOP Primary Race a Virtual Dead Heat


With midterm primary battles now heating up nationwide, one race conservatives should pay close attention to is in Pennsylvania, where three Republicans are vying to take on the incumbent Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf.

The vote seems likely to be a close one. According to a recent poll of 800 GOP likely voters in Pennsylvania released by American Principles Project (the parent organization of The National Pulse), the two front runners — Scott Wagner and Paul Mango — are running neck and neck with a high number of voters still undecided:

If the Republican Primary Election for Governor was held today between candidates Laura Ellsworth, Paul Mango and Scott Wagner- for which candidate would you vote? If you are still undecided on who to vote for, then please select undecided.

  • Scott Wagner: 20.4%
  • Paul Mango: 18.33%
  • Laura Ellsworth: 3.91%
  • Undecided: 57.36%

The topline report for the poll can be found here.

Although Wagner was initially believed to be the favorite in the race, he has been weighed down lately by his past support for support for gender identity laws, which experts say will open up locker rooms and showers in schools to members of the opposite sex. Wagner, who has promised he would veto any bill that “allowed for boys and girls to share private facilities, or that compromised religious freedoms,” voted down an amendment that would have protected religious freedom for Pennsylvania families and small business owners.

APP’s internal voter research has shown that Republican voters do not like Scott Wagner’s support for opening up locker rooms and showers and are likely to abandon him once they learn of it — which may explain why he is now dodging public debates with his chief opponent, Paul Mango.

Even more troubling for Wagner, however, is that he is now finding himself on the wrong side of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on the issue of gender identity and religious freedom. Contrary to the claims he has made defending his past support for so-called “Fairness Act,” these groups have all pointed out the radical consequences which would result if this legislation were to become law:

Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

Senate Bill 613/House Bill 1410 would add “gender identity or expression” and “sexual orientation” to Pennsylvania’s non-discrimination law. Changing the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) will jeopardize many churches and their charitable outreach if they continue to adhere to their religious beliefs because the proposals do not adequately provide for conscience protection. Read SB 613Read HB 1410Urge lawmakers to oppose any bill that does not adequately protect our constitutional right of religious liberty.

Pennsylvania Family Council

“SB613 and HB1410 add a provision clarifying that the law does not require the creation of new facilities for gender identity or expression. But that does not solve the privacy issue, it highlights the privacy issue. Courts in other states with gender identity laws have held that accommodating a biological male who identifies as female by providing a unisex or “family style” restroom option instead of permitting them to use the restroom of the opposite sex, is itself an act of discrimination. The result of this law then, is that biological males and females will have the right to access restrooms, showers and locker rooms of the opposite biological sex – in schools, places of employment, and at public accommodations.

“The employment provisions of the bill would prohibit Religious schools, Churches and religious non-profits from limiting the hiring of faculty and staff only to those that adhere to and live by religious sexual norms. Tax-exemptions for religious ministries are also put at risk. In other states with the very same kind of laws as SB613 & HB1410, courts have begun imposing penalties on Religious Schools.”

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

“Catholics and other Christians who see themselves as progressive tend to be wary of the religious liberty debate.  Some distrust it as a smokescreen for conservative politics. Some are made uneasy by the cooperation of many Catholics and evangelicals, as well as Mormons and many Orthodox, to push back against abortion on demand, to defend marriage and the family, and to resist LGBT efforts to weaken religious freedom protections through coercive SOGI (sexual orientation/gender identity) “anti-discrimination” laws.

“But the differences among these faith communities run deep.  Only real and present danger could draw them together.” — Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

The real takeaway here? Scott Wagner’s unique strategy of opposing Pennsylvania families and religious organizations in the midst of a Republican primary seems likely to guarantee him a spot on the sidelines in the fall. Conservative voters beware.

Photo credit: Paul Hamilton via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Terry Schilling

Terry Schilling is executive director of the American Principles Project.

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