Activist state

GOP welcomes far-right candidate for governor in Pennsylvania

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FILE – Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, speaks during an event July 1, 2022 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mastriano’s far-right views on everything from abortion to the 2020 presidential election would spoil Siege in a critical battleground state. But now, as the general election season heats up, the GOP machinery is gearing up to support Mastriano’s campaign and attack his Democratic rival, Josh Shapiro. (AP Photo/Marc Levy, file)

PA

Republicans are preparing for Doug Mastriano.

When he crushed a nine-person field to win the GOP nomination for governor of Pennsylvania in May, some party members warned that Mastriano’s far-right views on everything from abortion to 2020 presidential election, would spoil an otherwise accessible seat in critical battlefield condition. . But now, as the general election season heats up, the GOP machinery is gearing up to support Mastriano’s campaign and attack his Democratic rival, Josh Shapiro.

Mastriano spoke in Aspen, Colorado, last week at an event with donors sponsored by the Republican Governors Association. At the GOP’s “Rally at the Rock” campaign event in northern Pennsylvania earlier this month, independently elected state treasurer Stacy Garrity introduced Mastriano as “our next governor.” County offices and stands are adorned with his campaign signs and he spoke at this month’s closed state party meeting And on Wednesday, two senior party officials are hosting a fundraiser for Mastriano .

In one of the most politically divided US states, the GOP’s endorsement of a candidate who opposes abortion rights without exception, spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and was on the outside of the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 insurrection risks alienating moderate party members. But some Republicans say they have a duty to support their party’s nominee.

“When you play team sports, you learn what it means to be on a team,” said Andy Reilly, a member of the state’s GOP National Committee and co-host of Wednesday’s fundraiser. “Our team voted for him in the primary and no matter how you slice him, his philosophies are much better for running the state than a career politician like Josh Shapiro.”

The November election has major implications.

Working with a Republican-controlled legislature, Mastriano could dramatically reduce access to abortion. And he could appoint Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, giving him enormous power over elections in a state often decisive in presidential campaigns.

Perhaps with that in mind, some Republicans were hesitant to vocally support Mastriano.

The Republican Governors Association — typically a source of millions of dollars for GOP campaigns — has done next to nothing to publicly congratulate Mastriano, like other Republican candidates.

But that could change as the fall campaign approaches. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, co-chairman of the RGA, told CNN this month he wouldn’t rule out helping Mastriano and suggested the group would help if Shapiro looked beatable.

“The RGA’s job is to elect Republican governors, and that’s what we’re going to do in this cycle,” Ducey said.

Mastriano and Shapiro are vying for the right to succeed Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, whose term is constitutionally limited after he took office in 2015.

Shapiro, the state’s twice-elected attorney general, has unified the party behind his candidacy, running an uncontested primary campaign and amassing strong fundraising numbers. He also has ties to some prominent Republicans in Philadelphia and its densely populated suburbs.

His campaign recently rolled out a slate of former Republican lawmakers who support him, while another group of Republicans launched a group called Republicans for Shapiro to sway votes against Mastriano.

Mastriano dismissed them as “has-beens”.

Yet the traditional party donor community around the state is — in many ways — sitting on its wallet at a time when Mastriano is falling far behind Shapiro in fundraising. This includes prominent Philadelphia-area donors and fundraisers who have long funded Republican campaigns but know Shapiro well and likely reject Mastriano’s socially conservative politics.

“It’s going to make it much harder for Mastriano to get into that kind of money from southeastern Pennsylvania, that group of big donors and fundraisers,” said David Urban, a Republican strategist who worked on the campaign. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Beyond that, Mastriano, as the party standard bearer, causes heartburn, and some party officials have refused to speak officially about him.

The unifying theme is disgust for Mastriano.

No GOP gubernatorial candidate in the United States has done more to overthrow the 2020 presidential election than Mastriano — and no one is perhaps better positioned to unseat the next one if elected governor.

He rubbed shoulders with QAnon conspiracy theorists, Trump’s most prominent election-denying allies and those arrested in the attack on the US Capitol. His active account on Gab — a social media site popular with white supremacists and anti-Semites where he also spent $5,000 on advertising — drew condemnation from the National Republican Jewish Coalition.

He was one of Pennsylvania’s top spreaders of Trump’s fraud lies in the 2020 presidential election.

His plan to overturn the election results – presented as a resolution to the Legislative Assembly – drew a subpoena from the United States House committee investigating the insurgency.

Mastriano then organized bus trips to Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ rally near the US Capitol on January 6 and, afterwards, can be seen in photos driving past broken police lines to the spot where he saw pro-Trump protesters clash with police on the steps of the Capitol. This prompted an FBI interview, although he was not charged with a crime.

Then there is Mastriano’s embrace of Christian nationalism, which scholars generally define as championing a fusion of American and Christian values, symbols, and identity. Christian nationalism, they say, is often accompanied by the belief that God has destined America, like biblical Israel, for a special role in history, and that it will receive divine blessing or judgment in according to his obedience.

Mastriano also condemned the GOP establishment, refuses to speak with most mainstream media, and backed an abortion ban, with no exceptions, that discourages some party officials in Pennsylvania.

That — plus Mastriano’s speech about decertifying voting machines, opposing same-sex marriage and ridiculing climate change as “fake science” — didn’t escape Shapiro, whose campaign runs a TV ad. calling Mastriano “extreme and far too risky for Pennsylvania”.

Once a primary victory for Mastriano appeared inevitable, Trump endorsed him, despite party leaders fearing he could not win enough moderate voters to beat Shapiro in November.

State Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, who once warned that “Democrats will destroy it with swing voters,” had dinner with Mastriano after the primary.

Ward said she told Mastriano that “he has my full support because I want a governor who is not going to kowtow to the Biden administration and the Democrats’ anti-fossil energy policy.”

Mastriano is also receiving help from an organization whose political action committees are a conduit for billionaire Jeffrey Yass’ campaign money and have spent $13 million to unsuccessfully back a arch-rival of Mastriano while warning that Mastriano could not win voters in a general election.

The organization, the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, has already commissioned anti-Shapiro billboards and plans to spend millions against Shapiro, its president, Matt Brouillette, said.

Its board has not made any decision on Mastriano’s approval, he said.

For now, many Republicans are watching Mastriano’s efforts to mend fences with the party, raise funds and broaden his appeal to swing voters. He called some party officials and donors. Some have given him advice, others say they haven’t yet.

“I will tell him that he needs to get his message across and he needs to fundraise to get his message across to counter the misrepresentation that Josh Shapiro is spreading,” Reilly said.

Some say they see him focusing more on standard GOP talking points, such as inflation, and moving away from discussions about denying the 2020 election and banning abortion.

Charlie Gerow, a Tory activist who lost to Mastriano in the primaries, said he would help Mastriano in any way he can – and will tell Mastriano to expand his campaign efforts beyond the most voters. conservatives.

“A lot will depend on his ability to put together a campaign needed to win in November,” Gerow said. “And I think he recognizes that he has to broaden his appeal to win in November.”

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/timelywriter.