Mastriano, who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, 'Stop The Steal' rally outside the U.S Capitol, won the competitive race while espousing extreme views on abortion and spreading lies about the 2020 election.
Doug Mastriano won the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor on Tuesday night, defeating seven opponents in the GOP primary race and setting him up to face Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, in November.
Mastriano, a retired Army colonel, is a state senator representing a conservative district in southern Pennsylvania. Mastriano's right-wing affiliations and his extreme views on issues like abortion and his lies about the 2020 presidential election have raised red flags among some Pennsylvania Republicans — while attracting the support of former President Donald Trump.
Mastriano described himself as "the most pro-life guy out there" in a recent interview with former senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon on Bannon's "War Room" podcast. He has said that if elected, he would push for a total abortion ban in Pennsylvania, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the patient.
Although Mastriano has already made his extreme anti-abortion views widely known, the candidate scrubbed his anti-abortion views from his campaign website shortly before Tuesday's primary election.
At a campaign event over the weekend at which reporters were barred from entering, Mastriano lashed out at the "establishment" conservatives who doubted him, saying the "swamp is slapping us around," and calling them "stupid."
Like several other Republican candidates in this primary season, Mastriano pushed Trump's lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Trump said that Mastriano "is a fighter like few others, and has been with me right from the beginning, and now I have an obligation to be with him."
Mastriano has embraced Trump's lies about the 2020 election with a religious fervor. He was a scheduled speaker at the Jan. 6, 2021, "Stop the Steal" rally that immediately preceded the riots at the U.S. Capitol. Mastriano's campaign spent thousands of dollars on chartered buses from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., that day. While Mastriano claimed that he left the Capitol before the riots started, footage shared on Twitter months later showed that he was at the Capitol as fellow Trump supporters breached the building.
Extremism experts say that Mastriano's views embody the philosophy known as Christian nationalism — the idea that the United States should be an explicitly Christian nation. This radical movement of religious fundamentalism — which is often linked to far-right politics — is currently seeing explosive growth in the United States.
"The forces of darkness are hitting us really hard right now," Mastriano said at an April 30 rally in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania. "We're going to bring the state back to righteousness, this is our day, our hour to take our state back and renew the blessings of America."
In April, Mastriano spoke at an event called "Patriots Arise," which was organized by Alan and Francine Fosdick, two prominent QAnon conspiracy theorists.
"God is really working in our state. I know things are dark ... but we're going to win on May 17 with your help. And in November we're going to take our state back. My God will make it so," Mastriano said at the event.
Last summer, Mastriano traveled to Arizona's recount facility to watch the process conducted by Republicans in the state Senate. Afterward, he told reporters he would try to recreate the process in Pennsylvania. While the Arizona audit found no evidence of election fraud in Maricopa County, it did find that President Joe Biden won the county by 360 more votes than were previously counted.
Last year, Mastriano was subpoenaed by the U.S. House select committee investigating the January 6 riot. The select committee found that both he and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), his Republican gubernatorial opponent, were involved in a scheme to send a fake slate of pro-Trump electors to Congress from their home state.
In a May 17 interview on Bannon's podcast, Mastriano addressed the ongoing split in the Republican Party between establishment conservatives and far-right candidates who espouse Trump's lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
"Our biggest problem is going to be these feckless RINO-type Republicans that will not allow us to have a fighter as governor," Mastriano said. "It was like they were working for the Democrat machine."
After Mastriano's win on Tuesday night, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved its rating for the Pennsylvania governor's race from "Toss Up" to "Lean Democrat," and noted that the race "could move into even safer Democratic territory as the cycle goes on."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.