Commonwealth Partners, one of the largest and most influential nonprofits on the political Right in the state, is set to endorse William “Bill” McSwain in the Republican gubernatorial contest, Broad + Liberty has learned.

“Bill is, as we see it, the best counter punch to Josh Shapiro’s selling point as the [Pennsylvania] attorney general. While Josh has been campaigning for governor ever since he became AG, Bill has been prosecuting crime and corruption that Josh Shapiro has turned a blind eye to,” a source close to Commonwealth Partners said. 

The source requested anonymity because the official announcement will not be made until Thursday morning.

“I am proud and honored to have the endorsement of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, whose dedication to improving our business climate, expanding educational opportunity, and unleashing Pennsylvania’s energy potential is unmatched. Together, we will work toward victory in November and a freer, safer, more prosperous Pennsylvania for years to come,” McSwain said Wednesday.

Shapiro is essentially running unopposed in the Democratic primary, while the Republican side of the field remains crowded. That fact was another reason CP decided to endorse — something it has never done before.

“We believed that sitting on the sidelines would only allow for a bloody, unnecessary fight between candidates, and allow for a subpar, unwinnable candidate to emerge from the primary. So, our hope is that this will make sure that we have the strongest candidate emerge from the May 17 primary election,” the source added.

Fourteen other Republicans are still in the race, and no candidate who has announced has backed out. That makes it more crowded than the Republican U.S. Senate race, which has fewer candidates, one of whom has already ended his campaign.

In addition to the cache of the endorsement is the heft of the treasure chest that comes along with it. CP and its associated PACs — Commonwealth Leaders Fund and Commonwealth Children’s Choice Fund — have a combined $20 million cash on hand, nearly all of which is available to be aimed at the 2022 governor’s race.

Commonwealth Partners and its aligned Political Action Committees have played an increasingly prominent role in Republicans’ political success statewide. 

In 2020, Republican candidates for treasurer and auditor general toppled incumbent Democrat statewide officeholders for the first time since 1994. 

In last year’s primary election, Pennsylvanians voted to approve a referendum to curtail Governor Tom Wolf’s executive powers in the wake of sweeping pandemic restrictions. In the general election, Republican Kevin Brobson defeated Democrat Maria McLaughlin to secure a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In each instance, Commonwealth Partners leveraged its resources and clout in support of those campaigns. 

McSwain is a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where he frequently battled with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over prosecutorial decisions. Upon leaving the office, he’s been focusing his rhetoric on Shapiro, often trying to link him to Wolf and his administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

McSwain was one of the earliest entrants in the contest, announcing his candidacy in September.

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd@broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports@protonmail.com.

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