Charlie Gerow has worked with Republican public officials for over four decades. He hasn’t been among them, though he contends that this augurs well for how he would perform if elected governor.
“I’m an outsider who knows what’s going on inside,” he told The Pennsylvania Daily Star. “And that’s what voters are looking for — somebody who’s not an officeholder, who’s not part of what’s going on right now but who knows what needs to be done and knows how to do it.”
The 67-year-old campaign consultant and conservative activist who has lived in Cumberland County for the last 35 years has been deeply involved in major areas of public policy. Former Governor Tom Ridge (R) appointed him to a panel working against military-base closures. Gerow also oversaw advocacy campaigns against tolling Interstate 80 and in favor of liquor store privatization.
In his gubernatorial run, Gerow is still working to generate the higher poll numbers boasted by some of his GOP primary opponents like State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg), former Congressman Lou Barletta, former Delaware County Commissioner Dave White, and former federal prosecutor Bill McSwain. But Gerow can claim some high-profile supporters, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, broadcaster Michael Reagan, former Congressman Bob Walker and former Congressman John Peterson. Gerow was initially asked to run by U.S. Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-PA-15), the dean of the Keystone State’s GOP congressional delegation.
The candidate sees his campaign as engaging a “battle for the heart and soul of this country” between the statism of Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and his aspiring successor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), and the freedom-minded conservatism for which Gerow has worked on various fronts.
Born into poverty in Brazil, Gerow came to the U.S. as a toddler, having been adopted by missionaries who would later teach school and raise their family in a working-class neighborhood of Warminster, Bucks County.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a wonderful life,” he recalled, deeming himself “very blessed to be raised in the United States and very blessed to be raised in Pennsylvania.”
Growing up, he would work grueling jobs laying sod, selling newspapers, digging ditches, laboring in a warehouse, and trucking, putting himself through undergraduate studies at Messiah College and law school at Villanova University.
While attending Messiah, he received a call from a Lancaster County political acquaintance who asked him to meet Ronald Reagan, then undertaking his 1976 primary challenge to President Gerald Ford. Gerow came aboard Reagan’s effort as a volunteer and would come to serve the eventual president as a political operative at various times over two decades and aid in making arrangements for Reagan’s funeral in 2004.
Early in his career, he would run for a central Pennsylvania congressional seat, though it would ultimately go to Todd Platts, who would serve in Congress until 2013 before becoming a judge. A professed “recovering lawyer,” Gerow would find his professional joy in entrepreneurship and political consulting, starting several businesses including the Harrisburg-based media-strategy firm Quantum Communications, which he has run for the last 22 years.
“I’m very, very proud to be a small businessman and to have operated a successful small business for a long time,” he said.
Not long after founding Quantum, Gerow joined the board of the American Conservative Union, eventually rising to vice chairman when Matt Schlapp became chair. (The organization is presently rebranding as CPAC, the initialization of the Conservative Political Action Conference the organization famously hosts annually). Schlapp is among Gerow’s most vocal supporters.
The candidate foresees election integrity as being a front-burner priority should Pennsylvanians elect him governor. He has filed amicus briefs in the erstwhile court battle to repeal Act 77, the statute that introduced no-excuse absentee voting. He also insists that voters should be required to show identification in order to cast their ballots.
“If we don’t trust the vote, there are no winners,” he said.
Gerow also hopes to secure the right of Pennsylvanians to recall their governors, believing that Wolf has exemplified the kind of imperious governance that would make such a move worth considering. Gerow especially cites the way Wolf oversaw business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, an endeavor that many saw as arbitrary in terms of which business received waivers to stay in operation and which businesses did not. (Gerow’s own business weathered shutdown in 2020.)
“We saw the abuses of the governor’s office during the pandemic and we simply can’t ever allow that to happen again,” he said. “But the potential for that kind of abuse is always there, and so the remedy of allowing the people to remove a governor who grossly exceeds his or her authority has to be there as well.”
Regarding revitalization of Pennsylvania business, Gerow has embraced tax reform that includes reduction of personal and corporate levies as well as elimination of the property tax. He would largely replace the revenue by broadening the base of the sales tax and possibly raising that tax’s rate slightly. He has also come out strongly in favor of a right-to-work law that would ban forced dues payments to unions – in contrast to White, who has opposed such a measure and to Barletta who has been noncommittal.
On education, Gerow said he would ditch the use of Critical Race Theory in school curricula and focus instead on basic civics, requiring every high school senior to pass a citizenship test as a prerequisite for receiving a diploma.
“I believe that if our high school kids read the Constitution, knew something about the rule of law, and had a basic understanding of our history and what has made us truly great and really exceptional, that we’d all be a lot better off for it.”
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Charlie Gerow” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Kumar Appaiah. CC BY-SA 2.0.