And he’s just realizing this now:
Doug Mastriano won the Republican nomination for governor in Pennsylvania by leaning into the culture war, using his Facebook live streams to rail against vaccine requirements, "Critical Race Theory," and members of his own party who failed to embrace conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
But this avowed opponent of abortion — who welcomed last week's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade — is now trying to pivot conversations away from the question of reproductive rights, admitting that the issue is a boon to Democrats.
In an interview with Newsmax on Monday, Mastriano was asked to comment on footage of pro-choice protesters who were dispersed by police with tear gas outside the state capitol in Arizona. Mastriano, who himself was on the front lines between police and protesters at the US Capitol on January 6, per video from the day, praised law enforcement for quelling the civil unrest.
But the state senator also didn't really want to talk about it, he said, insisting that "it's all a distraction."
"The Democrats and their friends in the traditional media want us to focus on this, and now on the Roe v. Wade decision, instead of dealing with life," Mastriano told the right-wing news outlet. "And most people in this country are concerned about inflation, gas prices, food not on the shelves, baby formula, and just on and on. So this is all a distraction."
It wasn't a distraction when Mastriano was seeking the GOP nomination. In May, he said he opposed the right to terminate a pregnancy even if meant risking the death of a parent.
"That baby deserves a right to life, whether it was conceived in incest, or rape, or whether there's concerns otherwise for the mom," he told a reporter during a campaign stop.
On Monday, Mastriano did reiterate his support for eliminating the federal right to terminate a pregnancy, but he framed the issue more as an open-ended question for states now to resolve, declining to expand on his own position. He went on to concede that the issue will no doubt help his rival for the governorship, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
"I think my opponent will get a bump with the polls here the next few weeks, because [obviously] it's going to stir his base," Mastriano said. "But the reality is people are going to vote on the economy."
He’s really in damage control mode:
Some Republicans minimized the significance of the ruling even as they cheered it. Mr. Mastriano, speaking in Binghamton, N.Y., where he appeared alongside and endorsed Andrew Giuliani in New York’s Republican primary for governor, called the political furor a distraction.
“Sadly, the other side wants to distract us about, you know, Jan. 6,” said Mr. Mastriano, who chartered buses for his supporters to attend the rally that led to the Capitol attack. “Or they want to distract us about Covid. Or distract us about, you know, Roe v. Wade.”
Democratic governors cast the Supreme Court’s decision as a catastrophic move — and the first step toward a broader rollback of women’s rights.
Speaking of which:
A national group dedicated to electing Democratic governors is pressuring Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor to turn over any video footage he may have recorded while in Washington, D.C. on the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The Democratic Governors Association, citing a photo recently unearthed of Mastriano in Washington on Jan. 6, called on him to release any photos or video he may have taken while on the Capitol grounds. The screenshot referenced by the organization appears to show Mastriano taking photos or video with his cellphone as supporters of former President Donald Trump began to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Every day, more is uncovered about Doug Mastriano’s involvement in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection – including new footage that showed Mastriano recording rioters as they attacked law enforcement,” Sam Newton, deputy communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement. “Mastriano’s footage could be important evidence in the investigation into Jan. 6, and it’s further evidence proving that Mastriano lied about his involvement and stood with rioters as they attacked the Capitol.
“It’s long overdue for Mastriano to release the footage and finally come clean about his full involvement in the attack on our democracy,” Newton added.
Campaign finance reports show Mastriano organized buses to Washington, D.C. on the same day as a mob of pro-Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol building. Mastriano admitted to being in Washington, D.C. that day for a “peaceful protest” to support Trump, but said he and his wife left when things turned violent. Mastriano has stressed that he never entered the Capitol building.
And here’s the real truth, Shapiro can save abortion rights in Pennsylvania by defeating Mastriano:
But Mastriano poses a concrete threat in another way, now that the Supreme Court has struck down the constitutional right to abortion. Mastriano is only four points away from both banning abortion entirely in Pennsylvania and criminalizing it there, as he has pledged to do.
Mastriano is only the most glaring example of a central post-Roe threat to abortion rights: the move to dramatically restrict abortion or ban it entirely in blue-leaning swing states, not just in red ones.
Right now, Republicans control the state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, and a Republican could win the gubernatorial race in any one of them. GOP candidates in all three have pledged to ban or dramatically restrict abortion.
All this has other hidden implications as well: For instance, if abortion is banned in a state such as Pennsylvania, that would remove an important option in seeking reproductive care for people from neighboring states that have also banned it.
You may have noticed that Republicans have cast the court’s ruling in unthreatening tones, by claiming it merely returns the issue to “democratic control” in states. That’s sorely complicated by aggressive GOP gerrymanders of many state legislatures, including in states often won by Democrats.
But this also seems designed to lull Democratic voters into complacency. Voter turnout tends to drop off in midterms, particularly for the party in the White House. How many voters in places like Pennsylvania will make a direct connection between this fall’s gubernatorial elections and the fate of abortion rights?
“This is a real and present danger here in Pennsylvania if Mastriano wins,” Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general and Democratic nominee for governor, told me.
Mastriano has flatly declared that administering abortion will be a “crime” if he is governor. He favors no exceptions to the abortion ban he would impose.
What’s more, the Republican-controlled legislature has sought to pass new restrictions on abortion. The Democratic governor has vetoed them. So would Shapiro. Mastriano would not, and with him as governor, he and GOP legislators would likely push as extreme a ban as possible.
“Is the next governor going to sign that bill into law, or veto it?” Shapiro asked.
And Shapiro has been riling up the base:
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for Pa. governor, rallied in defense of abortion rights with hundreds of others at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center on Saturday.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe vs. Wade, abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania. But all eyes are on the governor’s race this November, which may determine the fate of reproductive rights in the state.
The GOP-controlled legislature has repeatedly tried to restrict abortions — and it’s up to the governor to decide whether those bills pass.
Shapiro on Saturday maintained his pledge to protect reproductive rights.
“I believe that abortion is health care, and I will defend it,” Shapiro said. “I trust the women of Pennsylvania to make decisions over your own bodies.”
He urged the crowd to vote in November.
“The reason why I’m hopeful today is because you’re here. It’s because you recognize your power,” he said. “It’s because you recognize to protect these fundamental freedoms here in Pennsylvania, we gotta win a governor’s race. Are you prepared to do that?”
Shapiro’s Republican opponent, State Senator Doug Mastriano, is a devout Christian who has made his religion central to his political career. He supports a total ban on abortion (and introduced a so-called “heartbeat” bill in 2019), without exceptions for rape, incest, and cases in which the life of a parent is at risk. He also supports criminal penalties for doctors and nurses who perform abortions.
When it comes to abortion, Shapiro has made sure to differentiate himself from Mastriano, whom he has called “a radical extremist.”
“You’ve heard him talk a good game about freedom. Well, I say this here in the birthplace of our democracy, it’s not freedom when he tells you what medicines you’re allowed to take. That’s not freedom,” said Shapiro. “It’s not freedom when he tells you how and when and under what terms, you’re allowed to start a family. That’s not freedom.”
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:
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