About half of the money raised by Democrat Josh Shapiro for his gubernatorial campaign came from donors in other states, a sign of increased campaign nationalization, Shapiro’s growing stature in Democratic circles and perhaps of his long-term aspirations, which some say could include a bid for the White House.
His opponent, Republican Doug Mastriano, a state senator from Franklin County, raised significantly less than Shapiro, but 9 of his top 10 contributions came from Pennsylvanians.
His largest donation, however, came from out of state – $1 million from Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, a billionaire couple from Lake Forest, Illinois. Their contribution alone accounted for more than a fifth of the total raised by Mastriano throughout the campaign. Uihlein, heir to the Schlitz beer fortune and owner of a major producer of boxes and other shipping and packaging supplies, is a major Trump donor and supporter of conservative causes.
Shapiro’s major donations include $2 million from Jennifer Duda of Menlo Park, Calif., a pediatric oncologist married to Ken Duda, founder of software company Arista; $1 million from William Harris Jr., of Miami Beach, Florida, former CEO of PayPal and Intuit; $1 million from Karla Jurvetson, of Los Altos Hills, Calif., physician and Democratic activist; and $550,000 from Reid Hoffman, of Menlo Park, co-founder of job networking site LinkedIn.
Among Shapiro’s six-figure donors are film producer Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, of Studio City, Calif.; they gave Shapiro a total of $200,000.
In total, Shapiro had raised $51 million for his campaign last month, split nearly fifty-fifty between in-state and out-of-state donors.
Donors with addresses in Washington, D.C. accounted for 19% of its overall contributions, while nearly 13% came from donors in California, 5% from New York and 3% from Florida. DC’s large proportion is tied to $5.6 million donated by the Democratic Governors Association.
“Voters must be wondering why are California mega-millionaires sending their money to Pennsylvania for Shapiro?” said Charlie Gerow, a GOP media consultant and unsuccessful candidate in the May GOP primary won by State Sen. Doug Mastriano. “Josh Shapiro is a beacon child of the Hollywood left. They see him as someone who could be president one day.
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Will Simons, Shapiro’s spokesman, explained why Shapiro raised so much money from the state: “Doug Mastriano is the most extreme gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania history – he wants to ban the abortion without exception and is committed to decertifying voting machines. so that it can determine the outcome of the next election. The stakes in this race couldn’t be higher, and the incredible and humble support we’ve received proves that people are ready to come together and defeat our extremist adversary.
Shapiro, midway through his second term as state attorney general, “has proven to Pennsylvanians that he will be a governor we can count on, and that is why Democrats, Republicans and Independents are supporting our campaign in record numbers,” Simons said.
Mastriano could not be reached for comment; his practice is not to speak to the mainstream press.
“This is a proxy election for interests outside the state,” said Eric Epstein, a Democrat, longtime government reform activist and former visiting professor of Holocaust studies at the Harrisburg campus. from Penn State.
“Mastriano is the tip of Donald Trump’s spear,” Epstein said. “Josh is a Hollywood lover with national ambitions. He’s a heavyweight national figure.”
Nationalization of gubernatorial races
Taking lots of money from out-of-state donors has sometimes served as political fodder in recent gubernatorial races, even though out-of-state donations weren’t as common in the past, Christopher said. Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. . But that is changing as gubernatorial races, not just US Senate races, become nationalized.
Politicians in other states are also appealing to donors from Pennsylvania, and there isn’t a lot of money to spend. As the cost of campaigns increases and campaigns compete for donors, boundaries are starting to blur, said David Atkinson, a former senior Senate Republican who lives in Lancaster County. “Gubernatorial candidates are emerging as major decision-makers beyond the contours of individual states,” Atkinson said.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision dismissing Roe v. Wade said concerns about the integrity of the 2024 election and immigration are examples of issues that cross state lines, Borick said.
Mastriano was Pennsylvania’s leading supporter of Trump’s efforts to reverse the 2020 election results and continues to say, without evidence, that Trump won. He took buses full of voters and activists to the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, where a protest exploded into chaos and violence.
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In that context, Mastriano’s name on the ballot this year elevates the significance of Pennsylvania’s results next month as a potential threat to the integrity of the 2024 presidential race. In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of State, which controls the elections. In some other states, it is an elective position.
Mastriano said he had already identified the person he would appoint to organize the elections, but declined to give his name publicly.
There’s no doubt that election scrutiny is part of Shapiro’s pleas for wealthy state donors, Borick said. “Shapiro’s pitch: it’s a firewall,” Borick said.
Abortion is also a national issue and a key selling point for Shapiro, who said he would not sign a bill eliminating or limiting a woman’s right to choose if it were passed by a General Assembly. controlled by the GOP.
Mastriano has not received financial support from the Republican Governors Association, which has the ability to direct millions to its favored candidates. Association leaders have always said they don’t fund “lost causes,” but officials said they continue to watch the race in Pennsylvania.
Mastriano launched a million-dollar ad campaign last week, his first such effort, with a television ad emphasizing his military record and the message to Pennsylvania voters that he will “support you.”
Although it’s a start, it takes at least several million dollars for a sustained ad campaign, experts say.
Like it or not, there is no evidence that candidates can win statewide with largely digital and social media advertising and in-person rallies, which describes much of Mastriano’s efforts.
In the absence of RGA support, Carrie for PA, the political committee of GOP Lt. Governor candidate Carrie DelRosso, is Mastriano’s top PAC donor, contributing $50,000. His largest individual donor in the state was James Martin, former president of Martin’s Potato Rolls in Mastriano’s hometown of Chambersburg; he gave $110,000.
Meanwhile, more than $3.1 million of Shapiro’s top 10 PAC funds came from unions.
“It’s relatively traditional” for Democrats, Gerow said. “It should be noted that these are mainly public sector unions.”
Mastriano “essentially wants to erase public schools,” Atkinson said. “So where else are the unions going?
Traditional Republican candidates would make up the money to work with big business PACs, but Mastriano’s highly conservative views on many issues have hurt his ability to woo those donors.
For example, Matthew Brouillette leads two conservative PACs whose main issue is school choice, Mastriano is a strong supporter of school choice. But these well-heeled PACs did not endorse Mastriano or give him any money, although they did fund advertising against Shapiro.
Early on, Brouillette says he told Mastriano they weren’t supporting him “because we didn’t think he could appeal to swing voters” and therefore couldn’t win. So far, the GOP nominee has shown little evidence he’s made gains with moderate Republicans and independent voters who are critical to winning the election, Brouillette said.
It would be wrong to suggest that wealthy out-of-state donors give money to Shapiro primarily to invest in someone who might one day be vice president or president, Borick said.
Shapiro’s aspirations are overtaken by the 2024 election and what some Democrats see as the threat of a Trump surrogate, Mastriano, taking control of the nation’s fifth-most populous state, Borick said.
But it would also be incorrect to say that Shapiro’s long-term future in the Democratic Party is not considered by some donors, he said.
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It is widely accepted in Pennsylvania politics that Shapiro has his sights set on a future presidential race. It’s not Shapiro talking about it. In fact, he told The New York Times that he won’t be racing in 2024 and is only focused on this year’s race. But Shapiro for the president’s speech is being talked about in the media and political circles.
Smart politicians rarely, if ever, talk about the next race, Borick said. “You don’t want voters to think it’s a stepping stone,” he said,
“You just don’t,” Borick said.
When Shapiro ran for re-election as attorney general two years ago, he didn’t even hint that he was running for governor, despite that being a widely held belief among politicians in the state. His opponent, Republican Heather Heidlebaugh, said he would use a second term as a stepping stone to becoming governor. Heidlebaugh, a Pittsburgh attorney little known throughout the state, ran a surprisingly competitive race.
Shapiro, if elected governor, would serve a full four-year term, Simons said. This would continue until 2026. It would be difficult for a governor to run for president with only two years of experience as a governor.
Shapiro has to win the governor’s race first or none of this nationally matters, Borick said.
As for Mastriano, “if Doug wins this position (governor),” Brouillette said, “it will be by divine intervention.”