Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) endorsed fellow Democrat Dr. Tyler Titus in his historic race for Erie County Executive.
If elected, Titus, a mental health professional and small business owner who worked as a full-time therapist in the foster care system and currently serves as president of the Erie School Board, would become the first transgender county executive in U.S. history. They previously won an upset victory in a four-way primary race in May.
Wolf’s endorsement is significant for Titus, who is seeking office in one of the country’s key bellwether counties. At the presidential level, the county was won by former President Trump in 2016, but President Joe Biden narrowly won it in 2020. Since 1960, the county has historically been Democratic, with a strong labor movement, but has become more competitive as working-class voters have begun shifting their allegiance toward the GOP over cultural issues.
Wolf won the county, 58%-41%, in the 2014 election, and by a margin of 60%-39% in his 2018 re-election bid.
“Since Dr. Titus’ historic victory in 2017, when they became the first transgender elected official in Pennsylvania history, I have watched with admiration as they have fought tirelessly for students, teachers, and families in Erie County,” Wolf said in a statement.
“I chose Dr. Titus to serve as Co-Vice-Chair on the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs — the first of its kind in the nation — because I knew they would be a vocal champion for LGBTQ youth,” added Wolf. “Now, I am proud to support their campaign for Erie County Executive, where I have no doubt they will continue to be a champion for working families.”
Wolf’s endorsement comes a few months ahead of the November election, which internal polling from the Titus campaign shows will be competitive. According to the poll, conducted by GQR, Titus narrowly leads Republican Brenton Davis, 46%-43%, a statistical tie. Eleven percent of voters are currently undecided.
Related: Pennsylvania candidate seeking to be first openly trans county executive in the United States
However, GQR notes, Titus is better-known and better-liked by liberal and moderate voters. Nearly six in 10 voters know who Titus is, with 31% having a favorable opinion of them, compared to 12% who have an unfavorable opinion of them. Just 44% of voters are familiar with Davis, who holds a 17%-12% favorability rating.
In another bright spot for Titus, 77% of likely voters agree with the statement: “A transgender elected official or government leader can be as effective as a non-transgender elected official or government leader.” Only 18% of voters disagree. Titus may also be helped by their party affiliation, as the poll shows incumbent Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, a Democrat, holds a positive favorability rating of 49%-35%.
“I am so honored by Governor Wolf’s support, Titus said in a statement. “Working with the Governor on his Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, I have seen up close his dedication to creating a safer, more equitable Pennsylvania for every one of us. Gov. Wolf knows what it means to be a strong, stable executive, so I’m grateful for his belief in me and our campaign. Together, we’ll build an Erie County where no one is left behind.”
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