Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks to supporters of President Donald Trump as they demonstrate outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Harrisburg, Pa., after Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump to become 46th president of the United States.
Sam Dunklau is the Capitol Bureau Chief for WITF. He previously covered Illinois state government for NPR member station WUIS in Springfield, IL.
Since 2015, Sam has been floating around the radio airwaves as a reporter, disc jockey, and station manager. He grew up in the small midwestern town of Paw Paw, Illinois and is a proud graduate of Augustana College.
(Harrisburg) — State Sen. Doug Mastriano is officially exploring a run for governor.
The Franklin County Republican, who’s publicly expressed interest in a bid for months, said Friday he’s putting together an exploratory committee to gauge his support among GOP voters. The group will then help him make a final decision on running.
Mastriano has made opposition to the state’s COVID-19 orders and false claims about the 2020 election central to his message to supporters in the last year-and-a-half, arguing the approach helps him stand out from an already-crowded field of Republican candidates.
“This is no time to settle for yet another politician when our freedoms and liberties are being stripped away. It is time for proven leadership,” Mastriano said in a statement.
The GOP senator is seen as a conservative firebrand among supporters, but has garnered his share of controversy.
“His [Mastriano’s] entry into the primary is the surest sign yet that Republicans are more interested in far-right litmus tests than addressing the challenges Pennsylvanians face every day,” Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Marisa Nahem said.
Internally, Friend said, state GOP leaders are wringing their hands over the growing field of gubernatorial candidates and may not formally endorse any of them.
Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry CEO Guy Ciarrocchi
Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale
Conservative political activist and pundit Charlie Gerow
Former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bill McSwain
Former Mayor of Corry Jason Monn
Attorney Jason Richey of Pittsburgh-based law firm K&L Gates
Retired UPS security and Public Affairs executive John Ventre
Cardiothoracic surgeon Nche Zama
The field is expected to grow even larger in the coming weeks. Delaware County businessman Dave White is expected to formally join the Republican primary race this weekend, while the Associated Press reports state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman will be announcing Thursday.
To stand out from a crowd that includes more experienced politicians and state party heavy-hitters, Friend said Mastriano would have to moderate the more conservative parts of his platform.
“Pennsylvania is not majority Republican,” he said. “Mastriano’s going to have to be able to appeal to, you know, more than half the state that doesn’t see the world the way he does,” he said.
Whoever wins the party’s nomination in the spring primary will probably have to face Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who faced voters statewide last fall and won re-election by more than 300,000 votes.
With just under a year until the General Election, Friend said the governor’s race is anyone’s to win or lose — which is why he said state party leaders are interested in a nominee who can win moderate corners of the state as well as deeply-red areas.
“They’re really trying to vet everything and make sure we don’t mess this up,” he said. “And I think Republican voters specifically should be encouraged that that’s what the leadership is looking to do.”
Both parties may also be competing under new state political boundaries by the spring. The five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission has said it’s aiming to finish its once-in-a-decade redistricting process by the end of January.
Pa. Republican lawmakers and the U.S. Capitol attack
As part of WITF’s commitment to standing with facts, and because the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to overthrow representative democracy in America, we are marking elected officials’ connections to the insurrection. Read more about this commitment.
Sen. Mastriano (R-Franklin) is among the several dozen state lawmakers who signed a letter asking Congress to delay certifying Pennsylvania’s 2020 election result, despite no evidence that would call that result into question.
This supported the election-fraud lie, which led to the attack on the Capitol.