This is exactly how you explain to voters what is at stake:
Josh Shapiro, who was nominated this week as the Democrats’ candidate for governor in the electorally critical state of Pennsylvania, has accused his Republican rival of intending to override the democratic will of voters and pick his own winners in future elections.
Shapiro launched his attack on Doug Mastriano in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. He called Mastriano, a far-right state senator, “dangerous and divisive” and warned that were he to become Pennsylvania’s governor he could wield power to choose his own slate of presidential electors as a means of overturning the results of the 2024 presidential election.
“Senator Mastriano has made it clear that he will appoint electors based on his belief system,” Shapiro said. “He is essentially saying, ‘Sure you can go vote, but I will pick the winner’. That is incredibly dangerous.”
"He wants to make it illegal to have same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania," he said. "He thinks climate change is fake. He is a danger. The contrast couldn't be clearer."
He continued: "We will continue to point out those clear differences. I've been focused on a future for Pennsylvania that grows our economy, that improves our schools, that makes sure that we have safe communities. He's been focused on re-litigating the past. He is dangerous and he is divisive."
Mastriano — who has been a huge proponent of former President Donald Trump's debunked election claims and has pledged to take the swing state in a deeply conservative direction — was endorsed by the former president earlier this month.
This has to be hammered out at every moment and Shapiro is really putting forth the work to explain to voters what’s at stake this November. Now you might be wondering how a fringe candidate like Mastriano could win his party’s primary despite spending nothing on advertising during the primary and raising less money than his primary opponents. SpotlightPA can explain that:
Mastriano built a broad coalition of supporters based on his work combating COVID-19 lockdowns early in the pandemic, combatting mask and vaccine mandates, and his work to overturn the results of the 2020 election. His religious appeals have also helped him get support from evangelicals.
Mastriano was central in Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
He hosted a taxpayer-funded meeting in Gettysburg to amplify the Trump campaign’s false claims of widespread voter fraud, and later called on the legislature to ignore the popular vote and appoint its own slate of electors.
His statements that the state legislature can ignore the popular vote to appoint electors have raised concerns that he could overturn the results of the 2024 election if a Democrat wins, and he’d have the power to appoint the secretary of state, who leads the department responsible for conducting elections.
Those positions played a key role in Mastriano’s appeal to some voters.
Toni Shuppe is co-founder of Audit the Vote PA, an organization that has alleged widespread voter fraud in 2020 based on faulty data, according to LNP | Lancaster Online.
“[Mastriano] was actually the only senator, first of all, that was willing to admit that the 2020 election was not completely free and fair,” she said in a video endorsement.
A national Axios poll conducted in early 2022 found that close to 75% of Republican voters believe voter fraud happens in their state, and 53% believe President Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election.
At a March campaign event in Harrisburg hosted by the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Pennsylvania, Mastriano emphasized his faith, condemned the “genocide” of abortion, and criticized COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Under Gov. Mastriano, you’ll choose how to live your life,” Mastriano said. “You will walk as free men and women the way God intended it to be.”
Mastriano gained support from evangelicals by harnessing Christian nationalism, a movement of people who believe the United States is a Christian nation and needs to be kept that way. And on the campaign trail, he’s spoken of how he believes God told him to run for governor, and used calls to action invoking biblical and historical references.
This can even be seen on his campaign yard signs, which often include in the bottom right corner the reference point John 8:36, a Bible verse that states “so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Leaders of the state Hispanic assembly said they supported Mastriano because he took the time to engage with the group when it was new and other lawmakers wouldn’t meet with them.
“When we met him, he gave us the time of day when nobody else would,” said the group’s co-chair Sheila Perez-Smith.
She told Spotlight PA that Mastriano embodies the Hispanic community’s values.
“Mastriano is a person that we believe God is using to be a leader for this community,” she said.
Perez-Smith claimed seven Democrats switched their voter registration to the Republican party after hearing Mastriano speak. Voter registration data from the PA Department of State show that Republicans have made gains in party registration, but Democrats still have a lead of a little over half a million.
And now that Mastriano is the nominee, Republicans are unsurprisingly getting behind him:
Having survived a last-ditch effort by some GOP officials to assemble around an alternative to his candidacy, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, may soon reap the reward: a united front in his battle against Democrat Josh Shapiro.
In interviews with the Post-Gazette this past week after Mr. Mastriano carried more than 40% of the vote in the Republican primary, a handful of party stalwarts — including some who backed his opponents — said they would support the senator’s candidacy if it means beating Mr. Shapiro in the fall and prying the governor’s mansion from Democratic hands.
Political analysts say it’s a sign of the times in U.S. politics, as both parties find themselves drifting further apart and becoming more tribal. They’ll back Mr. Mastriano through gritted teeth because it’s better than the alternative, even if it means sacrificing some beliefs, said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.
“Most Republicans who tell you they will [back Mr. Mastriano]? They probably will, even with a lot of reservations and some significant doubts about both the prospects of winning and doubts about what winning would mean,” Mr. Borick said.
Pennsylvania is already a political hot bed with the open U.S. Senate but this is also going to be a very brutal Governor race:
The race between Shapiro and Mastriano figures to be one of the most expensive in the country this cycle, with millions of dollars to be spent on ads that center around the candidates and the issues.
Democrats and several allied groups on Monday launched a $6 million digital, television and voter mobilization campaign targeting Mastriano specifically on abortion rights. Shapiro has amassed a considerable war chest with more than $16 million he's been able to preserve by running unopposed in the primary, but Mastriano's strong grassroots network is fueled by religion, Facebook and the undying 2020 election conspiracy.
Shapiro may be right that his ad had little to do with Mastriano's primary victory, but he and Democrats who liken the state senator to Trump are playing with fire. It's a lesson Hillary Clinton learned by boosting Trump as her opponent in 2016, and her loss in Pennsylvania opened the gates to an extreme brand of Republican politics that has resonated more than Democrats imagined in their worst nightmares.
Speaking of which:
The ads, which will highlight Mastriano’s position and public comments against abortion rights, will begin airing in Pennsylvania on Monday. Sponsored by the political nonprofit Strategic Victory Fund along with other major Democratic donors and allied organizations, the campaign is being run by affiliates of Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Governors Association, along with the Pennsylvania-based progressive nonprofit group Commonwealth Communications.
The campaign is a massive sum for the starting gate of the most high-profiled gubernatorial races in the country. And it’s the latest indication that Democrats nationwide believe a potential Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark case Roe v. Wade will be a boon for turnout in November. In Pennsylvania, outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to veto legislation restricting abortion access in the Republican-controlled legislature. But Mastriano, a state senator, has sponsored legislation that would ban abortion as soon as a heartbeat is detected.
Mastriano will face off against state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the general election. Shapiro has already signaled that he will make protecting abortion rights a key component of his campaign messaging.
The coalition behind the new campaign in Pennsylvania intends to expand its spending as November approaches. About $1.1 million of the total $6 million will be dedicated to digital ads on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms. Those will be run by Planned Parenthood Votes and Commonwealth Communications. Another $2 million will support organizing efforts by in-state groups. The rest will fund a television ad campaign from Put Pennsylvania First, an affiliate of the Democratic Governors Association. Those ads will air in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets.
John Nichols at The Nation points out that technically Mastriano shouldn’t even be allowed on the ballot:
Video from the event shows Mastriano crossing police lines outside the US Capitol, which was invaded by Trump backers as part of a violent coup attempt that left five dead and saw 140 Capitol police officers injured. Mastriano claims he did not physically enter the building, but in February of this year he was issued a subpoena by the House committee investigating the insurrection. Noting Mastriano’s public statements, which indicated that he “witnessed ‘agitators…getting in the face of the police’ and…pushing the police up the Capitol steps,’” the chair of the committee, US Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), wrote, “We would like to better understand these statements and expenditures, events that you witnessed or in which you participated, and communications we believe you may have had with national, state and local officials.”
Mastriano does not seem to be cooperating. But he does seem to be employing alleged insurrectionists on his campaign. NBC News reported last week, “A staffer with Doug Mastriano’s Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign who helped block media access to an event over the weekend was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when he appeared to smile and laugh as rioters smashed media equipment on Capitol grounds.”
The overwhelming details of Mastriano’s involvement with the coup attempt are such that the watchdog group Free Speech For People has urged Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman to bar Mastriano from the state’s ballot on the grounds that he is disqualified under the US Constitution.
The group points to Section Three of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which declares: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Enacted following the Civil War, the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause has been in the news in recent months because voters have tried to use it to disqualify several members of Congress from appearing on their state’s ballots, including Representatives Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
Free Speech For People makes a compelling case that the amendment is particularly applicable to Mastriano, as a professor at the Army War College, where he taught strategic studies.
But he is and we have to be ready to stop him from winning.
Health and Democracy are on the ballot this year and we need to get ready to keep Pennsylvania Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Fetterman, Shapiro and these Pennsylvania Democrats campaigns:
Josh Shapiro for Governor
All In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Democratic Party
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