Pennsylvania Governor’s Race Divides Republicans, Unites Democrats

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State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-33rd District, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, addresses supporters during a campaign stop at Alfredo’s Brick Oven Pizza in Hazleton Pa., Friday, May 13, 2022. (John Haeger/Standard- Speaker via AP)

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As Pennsylvania Republicans prepare to choose a gubernatorial candidate on Tuesday, some party officials are unnerved by the prospect of a primary victory for a candidate many see as too fit to win statewide this fall.

Doug Mastriano, a retired US Army colonel and state senator since 2019, has led in the polls spending a fraction of the money spent by some of the other eight candidates on the Republican primary ballot.

Mastriano recently won the endorsement of Donald Trump after working with the former president to overturn his 2020 election loss in the presidential battleground state and helping spread Trump’s lies that widespread voter fraud cost him victory. Many party officials have urged Trump not to endorse Mastriano, fearing he won’t be able to win over the moderate voters needed to prevail in politically divided Pennsylvania.

Democrats, meanwhile, are united behind the state’s two-term elected attorney general, Josh Shapiro. He is unopposed on the primary ticket after gaining the backing of the state party and its major allies, including the AFL-CIO, and raising more than $20 million since early 2021.

Shapiro helped solidify his reputation with a landmark grand jury investigation into child sex abuse cover-ups within Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses and defending the 2020 Pennsylvania election result against attempts by Trump and his allies to overturn it in the courts.

They are vying for the right to succeed Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, whose term is constitutionally limited after taking office in 2015. The winner is likely to share power with a Republican-led Legislature, where entrenched Republican majorities have controlled the floors. for almost all of the last three decades.

Mastriano has insisted to his supporters that he is not a far-right candidate and that his platforms, which include eliminating voting by mail, expanding gun rights, banning abortions and eliminating taxes on school property, enjoy broad support.

Rather, he says that the Democrats, including President Joe Biden, are far-left radicals, while the Republican “swamp” is trying to defeat him. Meanwhile, Shapiro’s campaign is running a TV ad that portrays Mastriano as an extremist and says that if Mastriano wins, “it’s a victory for what Donald Trump stands for.”

Mastriano represents a heavily Republican state Senate district based in Franklin County on Pennsylvania’s southern border with Maryland.

Republican voters will see nine names on the gubernatorial ballot, though two, Jake Corman and Melissa Hart, say they have ended their campaigns and endorsed former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta as part of a last-ditch effort to help defeat Mastriano.

Barletta has garnered a string of endorsements from current and former Republican officials, including members of Congress.

In addition to Mastriano, Barletta, Corman and Hart, also on the Republican gubernatorial ticket are: Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale; Charlie Gerow, longtime conservative campaigner and marketing consultant; Bill McSwain, a lawyer who was the Trump-appointed federal prosecutor in Philadelphia; Dave White, who runs a large plumbing and HVAC company and was a Delaware County Councilman; and Nche Zama, a retired cardiac surgeon who has led units at several Pennsylvania hospitals.

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

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