When he announced he was dropping out of the GOP gubernatorial race and throwing his support behind former US Rep. Lou Barletta, state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman called the vacant gubernatorial seat “an opportunity.”
“The only reason we won’t be successful in the autumn is if we nominate someone who can’t possibly win,” he said.
“He exposed the fraud, corruption and outright theft of the 2020 presidential election and will do something about it,” Trump said in a statement Saturday, adding that Mastriano “is a fighter like few and was right with me from the start.” and now it is my duty to be with him.”
But Corman’s comments highlighted what was an open concern among Republicans — that Mastriano might be too extreme to win a general election in the battleground state.
Swing voters in the densely populated suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have proved crucial in previous elections — a voting bloc that State Senate GOP faction leader Kim Ward said Republicans must win — and they may not be won over by Mastriano.
“Senator Mastriano is appealing to grassroots Republicans, but I fear the Democrats will crush him with swing voters,” Ward wrote in a Facebook post this week, announcing that she will replace former Delaware County Council member Dan White as governor supports. “The goal is not to win the primary. Winning the primary and losing the general because the candidate is unable to get the votes in the middle is not a win. We need a candidate who can win in November.”
Democrats, desperate to pounce on Mastriano’s rising status within the crowded Republican field, launched a nationwide political ad in the final days of the campaign.
“This is Republican Senator Doug Mastriano,” the ad begins. It explains that Mastriano wants to ban abortions and end mail-in voting and is a strong Trump supporter — all references Mastriano wants to share with his base, but ones Democrats believe will end up hurting him should he im to be the GOP contender in November.
The ad is being paid for by the campaign of Josh Shapiro, the attorney general running unopposed as the Democratic nominee for governor.
“I think it’s pretty clear that he’s going to be her nominee,” Shapiro told CNN.
It’s a strategy campaigns across the country have used before – to promote the candidate the opposition believes would be the weakest contender in the general election.
Still, in the final days before the Pennsylvania primary, Mastriano faced supporters in western Pennsylvania and proudly claimed he was the “most conservative candidate” running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Mastriano’s campaign has declined repeated requests for an interview or access to campaign events.
Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has served in the state Senate since 2019, rose to national prominence in 2020, raising unfounded doubts about the results of Pennsylvania’s presidential election. Despite the vote count showing Trump lost the state by more than 80,000 votes and no evidence of widespread voter fraud was presented, Mastriano attempted but failed to conduct an Arizona-style partisan review of the 2020 ballots.
Mastriano was also pictured in front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, the day of the riot there. In a statement, he said he left before rioters stormed the Capitol.
Emphasis on voting and abortion rights
On the Democrat side, Shapiro, with strong party support, managed to clear the field of any significant competition.
Like Mastriano, the two-year attorney general rose to national prominence in 2020, defending the result of Pennsylvania’s presidential election. Shapiro has faced the Trump campaign and its allies in court dozens of times, winning almost every single case brought against the state.
“The next governor here in Pennsylvania, the ultimate swing state, the epicenter of the fight to protect our democracy, will have a lot to say about the future of democracy,” Shapiro told CNN, noting that the governor would appoint the top election official in the Commonwealth.
Earlier this month, Shapiro rallied in Philadelphia with pro-abortion advocates and called Mastriano “an extremist.”
“I’m up against a bunch of extremists on the other side who want to take fundamental freedoms away from Pennsylvania, and I’m going to stand up against that,” Shapiro said in an interview with CNN.
Then he approached Mastriano
“I’m someone who wants to protect a woman’s right to vote. He will ban abortion. I’m someone who wants to expand voting rights in Pennsylvania. He’s trying to limit it,” Shapiro said. “We think it’s important that the people of Pennsylvania … know that there’s a clear contrast between him and me.”
That’s a contrast Mastriano proudly proclaimed at his rally in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
“That’s someone else’s body,” Mastriano said, before a crowd waved signs with his name. “And that someone, boy or girl, deserves every right to life as does everyone in this room.”