HARRISBURG -- Republican candidate for Attorney General Heather Heidelbaugh said Monday that she agrees with a federal judge who ruled that the Wolf Administration’s COVID-19 mitigation orders closing businesses and limiting crowd sizes were unconstitutional.
Heidelbaugh added however, that if elected, she would defend the state in court whether she agreed with the governor or not.
Heidelbaugh is running against incumbent Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro. If she wins, she would serve at least two years in office with a Democrat, Tom Wolf, as governor.
“As a policy matter, I’ve thought that the approach of the Wolf administration wasn’t proper, because it wasn’t a surgical approach,” Heidelbaugh said Monday in a wide-ranging meeting with editors of CNHI newspapers in Pennsylvania. “That’s the basis of Judge (William) Stickman’s opinion.”
The meeting was one in a series with state office candidates leading up to the Nov. 3 election.
Stickman ruled last week that the crowd-size limits violate the First Amendment and the governor’s business closing orders violate the 14th Amendment.
Shapiro last week filed documents asking the federal courts to issue a stay keeping the crowd-size limits in place while the Wolf Administration appeals Stickman’s ruling.
Shapiro said the orders should be kept in place because there’s a good chance that Wolf will win on appeal and eliminating the crowd-size limits would create the potential that a large gathering will lead to a deadly COVID-19 outbreak.
“Eliminating the commonwealth’s ability to limit large gatherings will inescapably increase the prevalence of superspreader events, leading to a larger number of people dying from this disease than otherwise would occur,” Shapiro said in the court document. “As far as our medical science has come, death remains irrevocable. Because a lack of a stay will have grave consequences, the defendants implore this court to grant that stay.”
Heidelbaugh said that state’s handling of the crowd-size limits has undermined the argument that the limits are necessary.
For instance, the state reached an agreement to allow a car show in Carlisle to proceed with as many as 20,000 people attending each day, she said.
“There would be no rational basis, which is a constitutional review point to allow 20,000 people into the Carlisle car show and not let people into a high school football game,” she said.
Heidelbaugh said that on a number of fronts, Shapiro has taken actions to get publicity for himself instead of focusing on the mission of the attorney general.
She also said Shapiro is using the office to boost his profile to run for governor and he has refused to commit to serving a full-second term.
Heildelbaugh said that if given the chance, she would serve two terms in office.
Shapiro’s office, in response to concerns about price-gouging as the pandemic shutdowns led to product shortages, created a price-gouging tipline. On Sept. 11, the attorney general announced that his office had reached an agreement with a New Jersey supplier over allegations that the company had inflated the price of hand sanitizer at stores, mostly in Philadelphia.
“Since the start of the public health emergency in Pennsylvania, my office has been working to stop price gouging wherever it happened. Ripping off people for hand sanitizer when they need it most is cynical and illegal,” Shapiro said in announcing the settlement.
Heidelbaugh said that Shapiro has used the consumer protection issue to get attention for himself.
“I think he has had 306 press conferences about the high price of toilet paper,” Heidelbaugh said.
The attorney general has repeatedly sued the Trump Administration, including a case focused on the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order who refused to provide health care coverage for their employees that included contraception.
Heidelbaugh said the state would be better-served if the attorney general focused on state issues rather than engaging attacks on the Trump Administration
“While you might disagree with what the president is doing,” she said. “The principal job of the attorney general is to use the limited resources to help Pennsylvania.”