NEW CASTLE – Josh Shapiro’s first order of business after winning reelection last November as Pennsylvania’s attorney general was to ward off multiple lawsuits alleging voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Shapiro echoed his stance on protecting the integrity of elections and voter accessibility during a campaign stop Tuesday afternoon in New Castle.

“We are willing to take on these big fights to protect our democracy,” Shapiro said in front of his “Big Fights” campaign bus outside Riardo’s Bar & Grill. “I believe the governor’s race of 2022 will be the backstop. Are we going to nominate someone who protects your right to vote, who believes you should be around the table to address some of these challenges? Or are we going to nominate someone who wants to take away your right to vote and roll back the gains that we have made over the last number of decades?

“We need to go forward, Pennsylvania. I will be there on the front lines protecting your right to vote every single day.”

Shapiro, the lone Democrat in the race to replace the term-limited Tom Wolf in next year’s midterm election, officially announced his candidacy last week in Pittsburgh.

Since then, he’s visited 16 counties, including Centre and Indiana counties on Monday. After his stop in Lawrence County, he was set for a smaller event at Allegheny College in Meadville before ending the day at Lavery Brewing in Erie.

While protecting the right to vote was a main theme of Shapiro’s roughly eight-minute speech, he also spoke about combating climate change and accessible health care, noting his brokering of a deal between industry giants Highmark and UPMC to allow patients to receive care from doctors in either system.

So “1.9 million western Pennsylvanians now have access to see their doctors because of what we did with Highmark and UPMC,” Shapiro said. “Someone said to me when I got here to ‘be fearless.’ Let me tell you, when you go up against Highmark and UPMC, we’re pretty fearless.

“We’re willing to take on those big fights. Our work on health is not done. Too many rural hospitals are closing down. We need to reverse that and make sure there is health care access in rural Pennsylvania.”

Shapiro won election to the state House of Representatives in 2004 and won reelection in 2008 and 2010 before leaving to become a Montgomery County commissioner.

He was elected as the state’s attorney general in 2016, where his office’s investigation into child sex abuse in six state Catholic Church dioceses revealed that more than 1,000 children had been molested by at least 301 predator priests.

A handful of Republican candidates have announced plans to run, with others rumored to do the same. History is not on Shapiro’s and the Democrats’ side – neither party has won three consecutive terms in the Governor’s Residence since 1950. Wolf, elected in 2014 and again in 2018, is at his term limit.

Pete Sirianni of the New Castle News can be contacted at psirianni@ncnewsonline.com.

Pete Sirianni of the New Castle News can be contacted at psirianni@ncnewsonline.com.

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