ASTON, Pennsylvania, Sept 2 (Reuters) – In the battle for Pennsylvania governor, one of the biggest midterm election races in the United States, Trump-backed Republican Doug Mastriano is trailing badly. Democratic challenger in fundraising, is behind in the polls and has yet to continue airing with ads.
The state legislator and retired Army colonel is such a polarizing figure that even prominent members of his own party have thrown their support behind his Democratic rival Josh Shapiro, citing Mastriano’s extremist views.
With just over two months to go until the Nov. 8 general election, Mastriano stands out as an example of why the upcoming election may not produce as many wins as Republicans were hoping for in the 2022 cycle.
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Republican voters across the United States have nominated a number of candidates who lack political experience and often hold far-right views that may not sit well with moderate voters in some of November’s most important races.
But the stakes are particularly high in Pennsylvania, a political battleground state that helps decide congressional and presidential elections.
The winner of the open gubernatorial race will choose the state’s top election official who will oversee its 2024 presidential election, and will also have the power to block or advance the efforts of the state’s state legislature. Republicans to severely restrict abortions.
Unlike candidates in some other competitive races, Mastriano has shown little interest in tempering his views with Pennsylvania’s crucial moderate voters.
He called legal abortion a “national catastrophe” and promised to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy if elected governor.
A supporter of former President Donald Trump’s false allegations of a stolen 2020 election that was outside the US Capitol during the January 6, 2021 attack, he also pledged to take the extraordinary step of requiring people to “re-register” to vote. — a move that violates federal law, academics say — and to decertify some voting machines.
Trump is scheduled to appear at a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday with Mastriano and other candidates he has endorsed.
But a growing number of Republicans, including former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff this week, have taken the unusual step of publicly denouncing Mastriano’s candidacy and supporting Shapiro, the state’s attorney general.
Jim Schultz, a Philadelphia lawyer who served in the Trump White House, published an op-ed Monday supporting Shapiro. Two days later, Schultz hosted a fundraiser for the Democrat at a Philadelphia restaurant that included several high-profile Republican donors, according to a source familiar with the event.
“I am a conservative and will continue to support principled conservative candidates and elected officials,” Schultz said in an interview, declining to comment on the fundraiser.
“Doug Mastriano is not a principled conservative. He is an extremist who has supported conspiracy theories and will only serve to divide our party and the Commonwealth.”
Mastriano, who until recently barred all media from his campaign events and generally granted interviews only to outlets that shared his far-right politics, did not respond to requests for comment.
One of his supporters, voter Dan Sardella, defended the candidate even though he said he wanted Mastriano to stay away from election denials and abortion.
“He may be extreme,” Sardella said, “but maybe that’s what we need right now.”
Mastriano’s latest campaign finance report showed less than $400,000 in cash as of June. So far, the Association of Republican Governors with deep pockets has refused its financial support.
By contrast, Shapiro is loaded with cash, which he has used to fund television ads portraying Mastriano as too extreme for Pennsylvania. The Democrat’s campaign said it has placed an initial reservation of $16.9 million on television ads that begins next week, bringing its total television spend so far to $35 million.
Some August opinion polls showed Shapiro with a double-digit lead, although a survey conducted by Emerson College on August 22-23 put the Democrat ahead by just three percentage points.
Six Republican county chairmen in the state, who spoke on condition of not being named, expressed concern about the state of Mastriano’s campaign.
Some believed he had yet to adequately respond to a Reuters report last week that Mastriano wore a Confederate uniform in a 2013-14 faculty photo at the Army War College, where he was a teacher. at the time. Read more
Displays of Confederate symbols can be seen as insensitive to those who view them as painful reminders of racial oppression and the Civil War that saw Confederate states fight to keep black people enslaved.
Mastriano provided his first public comment on the photo on Tuesday in an interview with curator One America News, saying, “I think it’s important to understand the past to have a better future and also not to repeat the mistakes of the past. past.”
During a recent lunchtime speech in the Philadelphia suburb of Aston, Mastriano attacked Shapiro for his crime-fighting record and support for COVID-19 lockdowns and transgender athletes.
“And they call us extreme,” Mastriano told supporters wearing MAGA hats and anti-vaccine buttons. “These people are just crazy.”
Dave White, a supporter and former Republican primary rival, said Pennsylvania voters were just beginning to pay attention to the governor’s race. He noted that despite Mastriano’s financial disadvantage, some polls showed a tight contest.
“I’m confident Mastriano has the right message and the right resources to win this race,” White said.
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Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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