Josh Shapiro wants Austin Davis, a 32-year-old lawmaker in western Pennsylvania, to be his lieutenant governor

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has a preferred running mate in his run for governor of Pennsylvania.

Shapiro plans to back State Representative Austin Davis, a Democrat from western Pennsylvania on Tuesday who will simultaneously launch his campaign for lieutenant governor.

The approval would break with a recent tradition that Democratic gubernatorial candidates stay out of the lieutenant primary. And that prompted backsliding from supporters of another prospect in the race, Philadelphia State Representative Brian Sims, who announced his candidacy nearly a year ago.

Davis, a representative for the first term of Mon Valley, an industrial hub near Pittsburgh, will announce his run alongside Shapiro at McKeesport on Tuesday morning, both confirmed. The couple will make a second joint appearance in Philadelphia on Wednesday at the Octavius ​​Catto statue outside City Hall.

In an interview Monday, Davis, the first black representative elected for his district, said his working-class background would benefit the ticket and the office.

“As the son of a Port Authority bus driver and hairdresser in Allegheny… a first generation college graduate, with the student loans to prove it… when I speak of working class families, he is because I am talking about my family. ” he said.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states where candidates for lieutenant governor run separately from candidates for governor in the primary. The winners share their party’s ticket in the general election.

Shapiro told The Inquirer he chose Davis because “I wanted someone who brings a different life experience, who is diverse, who comes from a different part of the state than mine.” He said, with Davis as second in command, “there will always be a voice in the room that adds to the conversation and helps us do more for the right people in Pennsylvania.”

Given that Shapiro effectively cleared the Democratic field for the governorship, the endorsement is likely to have a lot of influence. The Shapiro and Davis campaigns will work in tandem; without his own main challenger, Shapiro can devote more time and resources to helping Davis.

Democrats vying for governor have traditionally stayed out of the race for lieutenant governor, resulting in some bizarre pairings. Former Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack clashed with Governor Tom Wolf, who did not support him when he ran for re-election.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell said Monday he believes gubernatorial candidates should be able to choose their lieutenants, much like presidential tickets. He said not having this option has hurt some in the past.

Deciding who becomes lieutenant governor also helps Democrats avoid a situation with too many candidates from one part of the state or without any racial diversity, Rendell said.

“Considering the increasingly important role that African Americans have played, it would be good to have an African American candidate for one of these three positions of governor, lieutenant governor, senator,” he said. -he declares.

Davis would be the state’s first black lieutenant governor. Sims would be the first person to hold the position who is openly gay.

Although the office of lieutenant governor is limited, it is a role that is brought to light and often prepares candidates to run for higher positions. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has gone from small town mayor to lieutenant governor to take his current position as frontrunner in the Democratic Senate primary.

Davis, 32, worked in county government before running as a state representative. Elected in 2018, he also chairs the Allegheny County House Democratic delegation and is a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

The Pennsylvania Democratic establishment, already aligned behind Shapiro, lines up largely behind Davis. The campaign said he was backed by Wolf, Rendell, the leaders of the State House and Senate, and the majority of the House Democratic caucus, as well as Mayor Ed Gainey in Pittsburgh and the chairman of the board. from Philadelphia, Darrell Clarke.

Shapiro and Davis have worked together in recent years, including on an anti-violence initiative at McKeesport and a police misconduct database created by the AG’s office following the murder of George Floyd.

Shapiro had a short list of candidates for lieutenant governor, which included Sims and Representative Patty Kim, of Harrisburg, who decided not to run.

Sims said in a statement after the approval that Democrats “are fortunate to have a historically diverse choice of candidates.”

Sims, first elected in 2012, raised at least $ 285,000 in his candidacy and is entering the race with profile and some name recognition, although he has also been the subject of controversy, most notably in 2019 when he yelled at teenage protesters at Planned Parenthood.

Some of the Sims supporters criticized Shapiro’s decision to inject himself into the race.

Amanda Waldman, Democratic candidate for Lycoming County State, called it a “hijacking.”

“If the powers that be, the top echelon of politics, make a decision on who should be a candidate despite what the constitution specifically says about the lieutenant governor’s race, what’s the point? ” she asked.

Waldman has said she has nothing against Davis but is wary of a candidate announcing his candidacy at the same time he is backed by Shapiro.

“It’s very forced …” she said. “Why didn’t he go out and do the work?” And why is Shapiro’s campaign doing it for him? “

Efforts are underway in the Pennsylvania legislature to change the constitution so that candidates for lieutenant governor do not run in separate primaries. None are likely to come into effect in time to influence the May 2022 primary.

Davis said that while the early “box office” may be unique for Democrats in the last election, he thinks it makes sense in a year the gubernatorial frontrunner is so far unopposed. He said voters value the decisive leaders.

“We know we want Josh Shapiro to lead us as governor and he wants a strong government partner in me, and while that’s unique, that’s what voters are looking for,” Davis said.

Editor Chris Brennan contributed to this article.

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