Rick Saccone

Former state Rep. Rick Saccone says he is considering seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in the next year’s election.

The Elizabeth-area Republican, who represented the 39th Legislative District from 2011 to 2019, said he is leaning toward jumping into the race, and would make up his mind by late September or early October.

“It’s a hard decision,” Saccone said. If he does toss his hat into the ring, Saccone said he will be running a grassroots campaign, and will not be taking what he called “establishment” money.

“I’m going to do shoe-leather campaigning,” he explained.

If Saccone, who is 63, ultimately goes ahead with a campaign, it will be the second time he has sought statewide office. In 2017, he was briefly a candidate for the U.S. Senate, but dropped out of the race before votes were cast in the primary to instead run in a special election for the congressional seat that had been vacated by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy. The Republican Senate nomination in 2018 went to Lou Barletta, then a congressman, who lost to incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey by 13 points in the fall.

“That was such a good proving ground,” Saccone said, pointing out that he and his wife, Yong, traversed the state and visited Montgomery County, one of Pennsylvania’s largest counties, nine times during his Senate run.

If he ultimately goes ahead with a campaign, Saccone will be joining James Jones, a Philadelphia-area businessman who has not held elected office, and Jerry Carnicella, a Cambria County resident who has unsuccessfully run for a handful of offices. Other candidates seeking the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor are expected to join the fray. Meanwhile, Barletta has already announced a campaign for governor, and other Republicans considering bids are Congressman Mike Kelly and state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Saccone was defeated in his congressional bid by Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb by less than a percentage point. Shortly after, he mounted a campaign to become the Republican nominee in the redrawn 14th Congressional District, but was defeated by Guy Reschenthaler, who went on to win in the general election and has held the seat since.

Though he had been out of politics for two years, Saccone landed back in the news in January when he was part of the throng of pro-Trump protesters who descended on the U.S. Capitol. Saccone lost a position teaching international relations and global terrorism at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe in the days following the melee. He says that social media posts he made from outside the building, where he exclaimed that he and his fellow protesters were trying to “run out all the evil people in there” were “hyperbolic,” and he did not know what was going on inside.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Saccone said. “I was exercising my First Amendment rights.”

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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