Former President Donald Trump endorsed Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial primary, putting a last-minute stamp of approval on the far-right frontrunner who embraced his bogus claims that the presidential election 2020 was stolen from him.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more or fought harder for electoral integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in a statement Saturday.
Trump’s backing comes just days before a Tuesday primary where Mastriano has solidified himself as the leading contender. Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general who has no opposition in his party’s gubernatorial primary, aired a TV ad seemingly designed to fortify Mastriano, which even many Republicans believe would be their weakest candidate in the general election due to his extreme positions.
Shapiro responded Saturday during a campaign stop in North Philadelphia, tying Mastriano to the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
“There was a prominent Pennsylvanian there that day. And he walked to the Capitol. The police told him to stop. And he kept going. He was uprising. And he’s about to to be my opponent in the race for this governor,” Shapiro said. , without mentioning the name of Mastriano. “It’s the modern-day Republican Party.”
Mastriano was outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 to protest Bidens’ victory which he said he left before the ensuing riot inside and his campaign paid to fly people to Washington to the rally that preceded the violence.
Several GOP leaders have called on the party to coalesce around another candidate, former Rep. Lou Barletta.
Two-Republican Pro Tempore State Senate Chairman Jake Corman and former Rep. Melissa Hart ended their gubernatorial campaigns this week and endorsed Barletta.
Barletta released a statement shortly after Trump, promising to win the primary without his approval.
“Throughout this campaign, I have proven that I am the best Republican to unite the Republican Party and defeat Josh Shapiro, and I will continue to unite our grassroots conservatives toward our common goal,” Barletta said. “I will continue to tell the people that I am the only candidate who can unite the party and bring victory in November. I look forward to President Trump’s endorsement on Wednesday morning.”
Pennsylvania’s race to succeed term-limited Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is among the biggest in the country this year. The next governor has the power to appoint a secretary of state to oversee vote counting in what is a crucial presidential election battleground.
Mastriano is perhaps the most prominent state denier in 2020, having led the charge to audit and reverse President Joe Bidens’ victory there.
He led a hearing in which Trump’s lawyers presented false allegations of voter fraud and pushed the Legislature to name a slate of alternate voters.
He was subpoenaed by the House committee on January 6 of this year for his efforts related to substitute voters.
MAGA favorite Mastriano’s endorsement helps relieve some of the pressure Trump is under in Pennsylvania for his support of Mehmet Oz, the famous TV doctor whom many die-hard conservatives dislike. the Senate primary.
In an interview after his stump speech on Saturday, Shapiro said “the stakes couldn’t be higher” if the Trump-endorsed Mastriano is his opponent this fall. He said the election was about whether the government should “control people’s bodies” and “rig elections” or focus on tackling gun violence, education and poverty.
When asked if he favors limits on legal abortion, Shapiro said he supports Pennsylvania law allowing it for up to 24 weeks.
As Trump and his allies watch his wins and losses closely, Mastriano’s endorsement could help improve Trump’s record as polls indicate Mastriano is the favorite to win, while Oz appears locked in a tie at three for the head.
In this primary, once seen as a battle between well-funded candidates Oz and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick, the lesser-known Kathy Barnette surged late, sparking a wave of attacks against her. Mastriano works hand in hand with Barnette.
In his statement endorsing Mastriano on Saturday, Trump again bolstered his preferred Senate nominee.
“Doug Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz will be an unbeatable team for the most important midterm election in our country’s history,” Trump said.
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