The Republican Candidate for PA Governor Vows Partisan Elections Oversight

PA gubernatorial candidates Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Josh Shapiro.
Democrat AG Josh Shapiro is facing Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano in the 2022 PA governor race. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Please excuse my incomprehension, but it seems that one candidate for PA governor, the Republican, is still stuck in primary mode well past the May primary election date: throwing MAGA bombs to a general electorate in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by 591,108 votes (though recent party switching suggests that the Democrats’ edge is down to around 550,000). In fact, Doug Mastriano has doubled down on fiery far-right rhetoric that one would hear at a Trump rally.

For example, Mastriano has maintained his silence with the mainstream media, a platform considered crucial to reaching out to the general election populace. Instead, the candidate prefers friendly far-right outlets and extremist Steve Bannon’s podcast. Mastriano on mainstream media: “I don’t give these guys the time of day. You know, screw them.”

Bring Out the Nazis

Mastriano has also been loose-lipped in drawing parallels to Nazi Germany in at least two issues: gun control and the prosecution of Jan. 6 participants. This is not typical language from a candidate pivoting to expand his base of supporters. It’s causing a ripple of concern among state Republican officials.

“He’s got to appeal to Independents and moderate Republicans,” remarked Dave Ball, chairman of the Washington County GOP. “Given what we’ve seen so far, that’s going to be a trick. He’s going to have to rebrand himself.”

Disruptions in the Electoral College Count

Pennsylvania is one of just three states in which the governor appoints the top election official, usually called the secretary of state. Mastriano already has someone in mind, a person “who knows voting reform extremely well.” Translation: a Trump-inspired election denier who will sniff out a conspiracy theory every time a Republican doesn’t come out on top.

“The biggest risk is a secretary of state just saying, ‘I’m not going to certify the election, despite what the courts say and despite what the evidence shows, because I’m concerned about suspicions,'” Clifford Levine, a PA election lawyer told the Washington Post. “You would start to have a breakdown of the legal system…”

The governor himself signs the official certificate of the electoral college vote. And what if Mastriano refused to do so? If his actions on Jan. 6 are any indication, a Governor Mastriano could possibly disregard the election results and just hand Pennsylvania’s 19 electoral votes to Trump or some other GOP candidate. Scary thought.

Doug Mastriano poised to breach the Capitol barricades.
Despite his denials, it sure seems like Doug Mastriano and his wife are breaching the Capitol barricades, which is a crime. Source: daily kos
Mastriano‘s “Voting Reforms”

Exercising his prerogative as governor of Pennsylvania to count electoral college votes is among Mastriano’s “voting reforms.” Here’s a sampling of others, gleaned mainly from the Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Big Lie–This is where it all begins. Mastriano is an enthusiastic proponent of Donald Trump’s fantasy that widespread voter fraud by Democrats was the reason Trump lost reelection in 2020. A shocking timeline of Mastriano’s persistent effort to subvert PA’s electoral votes is the topic of an upcoming Record post, to be published in July.

Re-Register VotersIn an interview with right-wing “news” publication Epoch Times, Mastriano revealed his plan to require all 9+ million Pennsylvania voters to re-register to vote, “to start restoring confidence in voting in our state.” Elections experts are certain this violates both federal and state law. It’s also been used throughout American history to disenfranchise people of color and recent immigrants.

Decertify Voting Machines–Mastriano has repeatedly vowed to decertify voting machines in Pennsylvania counties where he suspects voter fraud occurred. But we’re not only referring to the 2024 election. Mastriano has a crazy scheme to “decertify” electors from the 2020 election and initiate a process that would restore Donald Trump to the presidency long before Joe Biden’s first term expires. It’s the longest of long shots but it says more about the person who could be our next governor.

Mail-In Voting–Mastriano is on record as saying he would get rid of mail-in voting if elected governor. But three years ago, during the start of the pandemic when polling places violated social distancing guidelines, Mastriano voted twice for Act 77, the Pennsylvania law that allowed for no-excuse universal mail balloting. Mastriano now contends that Act 77 was “hijacked” by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who was lawfully setting rules for mail-in ballots that were filled out or mailed incorrectly.

Jenna Ellis is Doug Mastriano's chief legal adviser.
Trump’s familiar legal contingent included Jenna Ellis, who was recently appointed Mastriano’s senior legal adviser. Source: Business Insider
Clown Show Plants Flag in PA

The above photograph should be very familiar to you. These are the faces–Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis–of Trump’s legal team as they appear at court proceedings and news conferences with the latest conspiracy theories on how the 2020 election was stolen from their client.

Here’s further proof that Republican candidate Doug Mastriano has no plans to shed his MAGA threads: He recently appointed Jenna Ellis, the one at the podium, as the Mastriano campaign’s chief legal adviser.

New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti puts it masterly:

In effect, the appointment means that a lawyer who sought to shake the pillars of American democracy is joining forces with a candidate who could soon hold significant sway over the appointment of presidential electors and the certification of election results in one of the most significant battleground states.

Nick Corasaniti
Democracy’s Chances

Even though the only published poll puts Mastriano within the margin of error, the smart money is still on Josh Shapiro, who has amassed a record of achievement as commissioner of the state’s third-largest county and as attorney general.

The problems for Mastriano are his extreme MAGA agenda and money, which are connected. According to campaign finance reports filed on Jun. 6, Shapiro had $13.5 million in the bank, with Mastriano reporting $397,000.

Retired Army Colonel Mastriano’s mission is clear: mend rifts with state GOP leaders and raise money. Astoundingly, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governor’s Association have yet to give Mastriano a penny.

Trump Toxic in PA

As for the “rebrand,” nobody’s holding their breath. As Jenna Ellis said at a campaign stop in Erie last month, “Doug Mastriano, I like to say, is the Donald Trump of Pennsylvania.”

Amen to that, Jenna Ellis. Amen to that. It makes me believe that democracy is safe in Pennsylvania.

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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