CAMPAIGN 2022: Barletta brings gubernatorial hopes to Indiana

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Another candidate for governor of Pennsylvania came back to Indiana County Thursday.

Three years after he campaigned for the U.S. Senate at a Blairsville-area restaurant, former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta took a tour of businesses on Philadelphia Street in Indiana as part of his effort to succeed Gov. Tom Wolf.

“These Main Street tours are something I did while I was in Congress,” Barletta said at the start of this tour at the 700 Shop.

“Indiana County is much like some of the counties back home (in his old congressional district),” Barletta said, as he recalled such areas as Schuylkill County in eastern Pennsylvania.

His Indiana stay was part of a whirlwind day that opened in Pittsburgh, including a stop there at an animal shelter — a kind of stop he tries to do regularly on campaign trips.

“Pennsylvania is one of the worst states for animal cruelty,” Barletta said.

In a way, Barletta said, “I am campaigning to be mayor of Pennsylvania,” continuing some habits that date to his years as councilman and then mayor in his hometown of Hazleton, Luzerne County.

“Very seldom did someone come to Hazleton,” Barletta recalled. He also wanted to share views with community leaders and such individuals as firefighters — noting that “over 90 percent of fire companies are volunteer,” something that keeps fire protection affordable.

With a luncheon meeting with community leaders and then a walk from the 700 Shop to Luxenberg’s Jewelers and Diamond Drugs, Barletta hoped to “have a better understanding of what is going on here in Indiana.”

It was a chance to hear from such Indiana residents as Luxenberg’s owner and president Jeff Widdowson, who told Barletta, “it’s been since the 1970s that we had manufacturing jobs in Indiana.”

Widdowson asked Barletta for his opinion of Wolf’s bid to bring Pennsylvania into the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“How can you be a governor in a state with all this energy and support this RGGI, which would kill our gas industry and coal?” Barletta wondered.

The gubernatorial hopeful also referred to a type of energy mined in his backyard, anthracite coal, and said it is a source of rare earth minerals that could take the place of imports from China.

Among those gathered at the 700 Shop at the start of his “Main Street tour” were John and Vickie Kanyan, two of Barletta’s friends who live in the Blairsville area, as well as members of the Indiana County Republican Committee including Chairman Randy Degenkolb, who also is county prothonotary and clerk of courts.

Others on the tour included Indiana County Sheriff Robert Fyock and Auditor Donna Cupp.

Barletta’s stop at the Diamond Drugs pharmacy along Philadelphia Street echoed Pittsburgh attorney and fellow GOP gubernatorial candidate Jason Richey’s speech and tour of the Diamond Pharmacy Services complex in White Township on June 24.

In a news release Thursday, Richey said state Attorney General Josh Shapiro isn’t doing enough to hold nursing home and state officials accountable for the thousands of Pennsylvanians whose deaths could have been prevented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shapiro is widely expected to seek the Democratic nod to succeed Wolf, who has served two terms and cannot seek another.

The attorney general has said his office is conducting criminal investigations into several Pennsylvania nursing homes.

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