What Issues Will Pennsylvania Hear About From 2020 Candidates?

Edward Field, Freelance Writer

Editor’s Note: This letter was written in response to a recent Beacon article.


In an opinion piece this past April, The Beacon addressed the idea of elected officials sticking to campaign promises, with a specific focus on Donald Trump’s failure to live up to repeated vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Whether you’re for or against Trump or this initiative, there’s no denying that it’s become one of the biggest examples in recent political history of a candidate making a promise he or she can’t deliver on.

Unfortunately for all of us, regardless of specific policies and positions, we’ll undoubtedly see many more instances in 2020 and beyond of politicians making unrealistic promises (and possibly even getting elected on them). We can’t predict exactly what these promises might be, and we can’t always recognize them in advance. What we cando, though, is look on a state-by-state basis at some of the specific policies and talking points 2020 candidates are likely to address in the hopes of picking up a few votes here or there. In other words, beyond the big, sweeping issues – health care, immigration, abortion, gun control, and things of that nature – what should Pennsylvanians be prepared to hear about as a stream of candidates parades through the state in the lead up to the 2020 election? (And where could there be broken promises made?)

A few things come to mind.

Prescription Drug Costs

Prescription drug costs fall under the category of health care, which of course figures to be a major issue on the national stage – again. However, we’re likely to hear a lot of talk and debate about prescription drug prices specifically in Pennsylvania as we get nearer to the 2020 elections. This is because during last fall’s midterms, polls indicated that Pennsylvania seniors in particular were prioritizing lower prescription drug costs in their demands from state politicians. This demographic will be of premium importance to Trump and whomever the Democrats nominate to oppose him, and at least at this stage there’s not a clear indication of which way Pennsylvania seniors may be leaning. Thus, we’re likely to see politicians, both in the Democratic primaries and in the general election, making note of drug costs as a highlighted topic within the broader health care debates. 

Voting Rights

Voting rights may be the sleeping bear of the 2020 election. State by state there are conflicts arising, typically between Democratic activist groups and Republican-controlled legislative bodies, about various expansions and/or protections of voting rights. While it’s a bit of a sweeping generalization, we typically see Democrats seeking to expand rights and Republicans looking to limit them, and we’ve certainly seen the same tug-of-war in Pennsylvania politics. This may ultimately be more of a topic for state candidates than presidential ones, but we should still expect to hear a lot about it in the coming 18 months.

The Betting Economy

Legalized betting businesses have been a fairly common topic of conversation in the Northeast ever since a Supreme Court decision early in 2018 made it legal for states to pursue regulated gambling. This essentially started in New Jersey, where there’s already a whole category of online casino sites, both for gaming and for sports betting. And following early success in New Jersey some neighboring states – including Pennsylvania – have looked to follow suit quickly. Sports betting is just now getting off the ground in Pennsylvania, and some estimates and analyses you can find suggest that it could become a major business in the state (with casino gaming potentially to follow). This doesn’t appear to be as polarizing a political issue as it once was, and majorities of Pennsylvanians have voiced support for these industries. Still, the fact that this is all happening right now opens the door for candidates to try to score easy points by alluding to or even directly promising steps to spur the betting economy on. 

Renewable Power

Climate change and energy efficiency figure to be fairly big issues on the national campaign trail, even if they aren’t likely to measure up to some of the highlight issues mentioned above (like gun laws, abortion rights, etc.). There’s some reason to believe we could hear a bit more about renewable power and the surrounding political debates in Pennsylvania though, because of the state’s $500-million nuclear rescue package. It’s a complex issue, but to summarize it simply, there are some legislators currently working to mandate more use of solar and wind power in Pennsylvania electricity – but it’s not a done deal. It could become a fairly polarizing topic among voters, and one candidates may feel compelled to address when passing through the state.

Here’s hoping whatever conversations end up surrounding these issues don’t contain flimsy promises!

Edward Field