McKEAN, Pa. - The race for lieutenant governor is quietly becoming one of the biggest in Pennsylvania.

Four Republicans and five Democrats are on the May 15 primary ballot. The candidates include:

  • Republicans:
    • Jeff Bartos - Montgomery County
    • Peg Luksik - Cambria County
    • Diana Irey Vaughn - Washington County
    • Kathy Coder - Allegheny County
  • Democrats:
    • Mike Stack* - Philadelphia County
    • John Fetterman - Allegheny County
    • Kathi Cozzone - Chester County
    • Ray Sosa - Montgomery County
    • Nina Ahman - Philadelphia County
    • *=Incumbent

Luksik stopped at Erie County Republican Party headquarters in McKean Twp. Friday night, doing her best to win over local voters.

"Lately, I've been fighting Common Core across the whole country," said Luksik, 62, a former teacher and college professor, who previously ran for governor as a Republican and Constitution Party member. "Because of my background in education, I've been a leading national opponent of Common Core."

But Luksik faces an uphill battle. Two leading Republican gubernatorial candidates have already aligned themselves with virtual running mates, including State Sen. Scott Wagner, who is running with Bartos; and Paul Mango, with Vaughan. Each pair is essentially running as a ticket. But in Pennsylvania's primary election, the race for governor and lieutenant governor are separate. The winners of each contest then run as a formal ticket in the November general election.

"The Erie County Republican Committee's position is to let the voters decide who is going to go onto the general ballot," said Verel Salmon, the county's party chair.

On the Democratic side, four candidates are trying to unseat the sitting Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, who has face a controversy-filled first term. The combination of nine candidates is making this race the most hotly-contested in locally and in much of Pennsylvania.

It's not unusual for a lieutenant governor to become governor in Pennsylvania, Luksik noted during her 45-minute speech/Q&A with voters. The last time it happened was 2001 when then-Gov. Tom Ridge was named U.S. Homeland Security Secretary. His lieutenant, Mark Schweiker, then assumed the governorship.

"I would think you'd want to spend as much time studying the candidates for lieutenant governor as you would for governor or anything else," Salmon stressed, calling the race "important."

It's a position that doesn't usually garner much attention, but one that could shake up Pennsylvania's political landscape in the coming weeks.