Former President Donald Trump has backed Doug Mastriano in the Republican primary for Pennsylvania governor, giving a last-minute seal of approval to the far-right frontrunner who has embraced his false claims that the 2020 election has been stolen from him.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more or fought harder for election integrity than Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in a statement Saturday.
Trump’s support comes just days before a primary on Tuesday, where Mastriano has solidified himself as the leading candidate. Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general who is running unopposed in his party’s primary for governor, has aired a TV ad seemingly intended to bolster Mastriano, who even many Republicans believe is their weakest candidate. would be in general elections because of his extreme views.
Several GOP leaders have called for party amalgamation around another candidate, former Rep. Lou Barletta.
Two Republicans – Pro Tempore State Senate President Jake Corman and former Rep. Melissa Hart – ended their campaigns for governor this week, supporting Barletta.
Barletta issued a statement shortly after Trump’s, promising to win the primaries without his approval.
“During this campaign, I proved 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 shared goal,” Barletta said. “I will continue to advocate for people that I am the only candidate who can unite the party and bring victory in November. I look forward to President Trump’s approval Wednesday morning.”
Pennsylvania’s race to replace Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has been one of the most significant in the country this year. The next governor has the power to appoint a secretary of state to oversee the vote counting in what is a crucial battleground in presidential elections.
Mastriano is arguably the state’s most prominent election denier in 2020, having led charges to verify and undo President Joe Biden’s victory there.
He presided over a hearing in which Trump lawyers presented false claims of voter fraud and insisted that the legislature appoint a list of deputy voters.
Mastriano was also outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, to protest Biden’s victory — he has said he left before the ensuing riots inside — and paid for his campaign to take people by bus to Washington for the rally that preceded the violence.
He was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Jan. 6 this year for his efforts related to the deputy voters.
The endorsement of MAGA favorite Mastriano helps alleviate some of the pressure Trump is under in Pennsylvania for his support of Mehmet Oz, the famed TV doctor many diehard conservatives dislike, in the Senate primaries.
While Trump and his allies keep a close eye on his wins and losses, Mastriano’s endorsement could help improve Trump’s record as polls indicate Mastriano is preferred to win, while Oz appears to be stuck in a draw of three directions for the leadership.
In that primary, once considered a battle between well-funded candidates Oz and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick, the lesser-known Kathy Barnette showed up late, sparking a spate of attacks on her. Mastriano walks hand in hand with Barnette.
In his statement endorsing Mastriano on Saturday, Trump once again promoted his favorite Senate candidate.
“Doug Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz will make an unbeatable team in the most important midterm elections in our country’s history,” Trump said.
Marc Caputo contributed†