PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A local state representative announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor on Tuesday and was immediately endorsed by a candidate for governor.
As KDKA political editor Jon Delano explains in an exclusive interview with both, this doesn’t happen too often.
“I’m announcing my run to serve as the next lieutenant governor of our great commonwealth,” Pennsylvania Rep. Austin Davis told a crowd in his hometown of McKeesport.
Surrounded by family and supporters like Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Congressman Mike Doyle and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Davis announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor.
His biggest supporter is the man who wants to be governor: Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“I need a lieutenant governor by my side who is a capable, effective voice and ready on day one to get to work. That’s why I am proud to announce here in McKeesport today that I am endorsing Austin Davis for lieutenant governor of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Shapiro told the crowd.
In their first interview together with KDKA’s Jon Delano, Shapiro said he took the unusual step of endorsing a lieutenant governor candidate – who is nominated separately in the spring primary – because he wanted the right partner from a different background.
“I want to make sure I have a partner with me, a partner who is going to challenge me, a partner who has different life experiences,” says Shapiro. “It’s critically important to me that western Pennsylvania has a voice in our administration and through Austin Davis they will.”
Davis, a 32-year-old University of Pittsburgh graduate, is the first Black elected in this region to represent a majority white district.
“I think I bring a needed perspective to this ticket, and by being on this ticket, it’s going to show the breadth of our commonwealth and that everyone has a home in the Shapiro Davis administration,” says Davis.
The last Democratic governor candidate to endorse a running mate was then-auditor general Bob Casey in 2002 who endorsed state senator Jack Wagner. Both lost their nominations.
Shapiro says this will be different.
“Take a look at the signs behind me here [with both names on the sign]. This is a Shapiro Davis ticket, and I’ll do everything in my power to support him in the lieutenant governor’s race,” says Shapiro.
Most candidates for governor don’t bother with the separate lieutenant governor race, but that can lead to forced pairings after the primary that often don’t work out like Ed Rendell and Catherine Baker Knoll or Tom Wolf and Mike Stack.
Shapiro wants to avoid that.
“I want to shake up Harrisburg and bring people together to get things done and take on those big fights. And to do that, I need a lieutenant governor by my side who is a capable, effective voice and ready on day one to get to work.”
WATCH: KDKA’s Jon Delano reports
In their first interview together, Shapiro elaborated how he will expand the role of his lieutenant governor.
“I think it’s critical that the governor and lieutenant governor be a team and that it be a real partnership, and that we have a lieutenant governor that has the trust and the respect of the governor, have a lieutenant governor that can be deployed to deal with real challenges in our communities and across the commonwealth.”
“That’s what I see in Austin Davis,” says Shapiro.
Shapiro says Davis will be at the table on all key decisions, and Davis says Shapiro has told him to speak his mind even when they disagree.
Delano: “Are there issues on which you know you disagree already?”
Davis: “We are two different people who have two different life backgrounds, different experiences. There are going to be places where we disagree, but the Shapiro Davis administration will speak from a unified voice at all times.”
Delano: “Austin, are your prepared to tell Attorney General, well maybe Governor Josh Shapiro, things he doesn’t want to hear?”
Davis: “Absolutely. I think that’s my role, quite frankly, my charge as our next lieutenant governor, not only to serve our commonwealth well but to serve him well.”
Both parties nominate their candidates for lieutenant governor separately from governor, and Philadelphia state representative Brian Sims is also running for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary.
By embracing Davis from the get-go, Shapiro is betting he can convince fellow Democrats to back Davis over Sims or any other Democrat who runs.
The primary is May 17.