Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano is running a close race with former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), in the Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial primary.
While Barletta has racked up a number of high-profile endorsements, Republicans across Pennsylvania have voiced concerns with Mastriano’s record and electability. Mastriano faces seven issues heading into the May 17 election.
1. Mastriano is Democrat Josh Shapiro’s Preferred Candidate to Run Against
The Republican who wins the gubernatorial primary will face Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) in November’s general election. In a recent ad, Shapiro suggested that he would prefer to run against Mastriano, whom he seemingly views as a weaker opponent than Barletta.
In the ad, Shapiro sought to closely align Mastriano to former President Trump despite the president not having endorsed a candidate in the race.
“Pennsylvania Republicans don’t want Democrat Josh Shapiro picking their candidate for governor,” a GOP operative told Breitbart News. “Josh Shapiro is helping Doug Mastriano more than he has done for himself in an entire year.”
Mastriano admitted to local media that the Shapiro ad is helping him in the race.
2. Pennsylvania Swing Voters Suggest They’ll Vote for Shapiro Over Mastriano
Last week, Osage Research released a poll of the state’s swing voters. The poll found that 42 percent of swing voters said they want to vote for a Republican for governor over a Democrat in the general election while 39 percent said they prefer a Democrat.
With that preference, though, 49 percent of swing voters said they would vote for Shapiro over 41 percent who said they would back Mastriano in an election between the two candidates. Pollsters noted:
Mastriano’s image is already upside down with swing voters with only 16 percent having a favorable opinion of Mastriano while already 22 percent have an unfavorable opinion. After voters are informed about key messages on Mastriano and Shapiro, Shapiro jumps out to a 12-point lead and Shapiro pushes over 50% percent.
3. Mastriano Fractures Pennsylvania Republican Party
Across Pennsylvania, insiders from the state’s Republican Party are worried that a Mastriano candidacy against Shapiro will cost them more than just the governor’s race but also state legislative seats as well.
“We’re in a year where all evidence points to a red tsunami. And it appears here in Pennsylvania, because of the number of people in the race and his smaller but consistent base of support, we may be nominating the only Republican who would be unelectable in November,” Allegheny County Republican Party Chair Sam DeMarco told Politico.
“As National Committeeman, I have spoken regularly with almost all of the gubernatorial campaigns over the past [three] months,” Andy Reilly told Politico:
Last week when the presumptive [Democratic] nominee, Josh Shapiro, and the State Democratic Party used campaign resources to assist the candidacy of Doug Mastriano in the Republican primary, it raised concerns among the campaigns. Those concerns have led to discussions among the campaigns of which I have been occasionally involved. [Emphasis added]
One GOP insider said operatives in the state’s Republican Party are all “losing their minds.”
4. Mastriano’s Record on Chinese Coronavirus Restrictions
In March 2020, just as the Chinese coronavirus gripped the United States, Mastriano suggested rolling back medical privacy laws for Americans, writing in a document that “existing HIPAA regulations are threatening the lives of our citizens…”
Mastriano then introduced a plan that requested the federal government to suspend medical privacy for Americans to “allow for full disclosure of details that are currently considered private, and are not disclosed to the public.” The plan would have kept a public record of every American who tested positive for coronavirus.
In a March 19, 2020 letter to Trump, Mastriano begged the administration to suspend HIPAA laws, writing that “existing federal law prevents the sharing of names of COVID-19 persons, and this endangers the lives of those who come in close contact with them.”
5. Potential Campaign Finance Violations by Mastriano Campaign
As far back as December 2021, Mastriano’s campaign finances have raised alarms. Critics accused Mastriano, at the time, of violating campaign finance laws by not having officially declared a run for governor while soliciting donations through groups supporting him.
A few months ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer confirmed Mastriano has not reported the donations and fundraising costs associated with events last year on his financial report:
But no costs associated with those events show up on Mastriano’s 2021 financial report, which was made public this month. In fact, he didn’t report spending much of anything last year. The filing shows just one expenditure, recorded last January — $14,415.87 on processing fees for an online fund-raising service. [Emphasis added]
Mastriano didn’t report any such expenditures. [Emphasis added]
Nor did he report spending on a large billboard on a Chambersburg highway touting his campaign. The sign, reported by Breitbart, says it was paid for by Friends of Doug Mastriano. [Emphasis added]
6. Mastriano’s Record of Supporting Voting Law that Helped Spur 2020 Election Issues
In 2019, as a state senator, Mastriano joined his Republican colleagues in passing Act 77, which Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed into law ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The law abolished straight-ticket voting in Pennsylvania, where a voter can check a one-party box, while expanding no-excuse absentee voting across the state.
Last year, when Breitbart News asked Mastriano about Act 77, he called it a “comprehensive voting reform package” in its original form.
“There were no red flags as evidenced that every Republican in the Senate supported it, even those of us who are routinely a ‘no’ vote on anything that could undermine our freedoms,” Mastriano said. “And the near-unanimous Democrat opposition to this bill highlights that in its original form, there was no insidious risk.”
7. Mastriano’s Smears Against Breitbart News
In December 2021, following a report published by Breitbart News noting questions surrounding Mastriano’s campaign finances, the retired U.S. Army Colonel took to local talk radio to smear Breitbart News, Hannah Bleau, the reporter who wrote the piece, and her Christian faith.
“… shame on her,” Mastriano said. “She professes on her Twitter page to be a Christian. If that is so, I can’t judge her heart here … that girl is very questionable and she is compromising her integrity.”
Mastriano then accused Breitbart News of sending a request for comment to his campaign two to three hours before publishing the report regarding the campaign finance concerns.
After reviewing the communications, Breitbart News reported that a request for comment had been sent to Mastriano’s communications director, Joshua Hermann, who responded to the request within hours with a statement.
That statement was included, in full, in the report and the report was not published until a week later, indicating that Mastriano’s claims that he was blindsided by Breitbart News are inaccurate.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter here.