Here’s the latest news out of Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano took some punches from his GOP rivals in this spring’s primary election campaign, but nothing like this.
In a new political attack ad launched by the never-Trumpers who lead The Lincoln Project, Mastriano is tagged as a traitor for his post-2020 track record as a Donald Trump election defeat denier.
The Lincoln Project is a superPAC organized by Republican political operatives who have grown disaffected with former president Donald J. Trump and his hold on the party, and who now say that they are resolved to fight Trump-like candidates whom they deem to be threats to American democracy.
In an advertisement scheduled to roll out in the Harrisburg / Lancaster / York television market this week, Lincoln Project leaders said they hope to capitalize on news coverage and buzz generated by the House Select Committee’s public hearings on the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, and reminding voters that Mastriano was there, too.
Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor who has pushed Donald Trump’s election lies, said Monday that he had appointed Trump’s former campaign lawyer as a senior legal adviser to his own campaign.
The lawyer, Jenna Ellis, endorsed Mastriano in the state’s contested Republican primary, campaigned with Mastriano and hosted Mastriano on her podcast, where he once discussed how to overturn Trump’s defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Ellis, who also promoted Trump’s election lies, was with Mastriano the night he won his gubernatorial primary and, speaking on her podcast last month, said, “I like to say that Doug Mastriano is the Donald Trump of Pennsylvania.”
The decision to bring on Ellis indicates Mastriano, who was endorsed by Trump, has little interest in moderating his gubernatorial campaign ahead of the general election in Pennsylvania. If Mastriano were to win in the fall, he would shape how elections are conducted in the pivotal battleground state — where the governor appoints the secretary of state, who oversees how elections are run. Mastriano has pledged to take the extraordinary step of requiring people to “re-register” to vote — a move that flatly violates federal law, constitutional law scholars say — and decertifying certain voting machines.
Claims of fraud during the 2020 Presidential Election by Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano were discussed during Monday’s January 6 committee hearing.
In a pre-taped deposition with former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr played during the hearing, Barr was asked about conversations he had regarding election fraud in Pennsylvania.
In the video, officials with the Jan. 6 committee asked Barr about conversations he’d had with now-former U.S. Attorney William McSwain about “discrepancies between the number of absentee ballots issued and the number of ballots cast” in Pennsylvania.
Barr said the claim was “one of the big ones” following the 2020 election and that it was brought up during an event in Gettysburg.
After the 2020 election, Mastriano, a state senator, spearheaded a state Senate hearing in Gettysburg in which witnesses — including Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani — aired false claims about mass voter fraud. Trump called into the hearing, as well.
“It kept on being repeated and I found it annoying because it didn’t seem like it was right,” said Barr.
Barr said he contacted McSwain, who told him Mastriano “threw out this number and what he did was mixed apples and oranges.” McSwain later ran for Governor and lost to Mastriano after Trump “unendorsed” McSwain and called him a “coward” for doing “absolutely nothing” to investigate alleged election fraud.
Politico has a great piece out about how Mastriano’s brand of Christian Nationalism and Election Denier mentality has made him a terrifying cult figure:
“He’s a nut bag,” said Neil Oxman, a veteran Democratic ad maker based in Pennsylvania.
Melissa Hart, a former congresswoman from Pennsylvania who dropped out of the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary days before the election, said Mastriano “comes across as a cult guy.”
“He has some rhetoric where you expect people to start holding hands and running towards the cliff,” said Daniel Fee, a longtime Democratic strategist in the state. “I think he will disqualify himself.”
For most Democrats — and some establishment Republicans — he already has. A chief proponent of Trump’s election conspiracy theories, Mastriano made a name for himself organizing the infamous post-election hearing in Gettysburg that Rudy Giuliani attended — and that Trump, who endorsed Mastriano — called in for. He was in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, the day of the riot at the Capitol, visited Arizona to observe its farcical ballot review and pressed for a review of ballots in Pennsylvania, including in rural Fulton County, which Trump won easily. (Aside from saying he would not talk about politics on Memorial Day, Mastriano and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment on that or other days.)
It’s not as though Mastriano has tempered his politics in the year-plus since. During the primary, he developed a following by railing against Covid mask and vaccine mandates. He said his opposition to abortion rights includes no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. He wants to require voters to reregister. And as he begins his general election campaign — a turn in the race where most candidates in a swing state would begin courting moderate, suburban voters — Mastriano is instead generating headlines like these: “Doug Mastriano doubles down on comparing U.S. gun control to Nazi Germany” and “Doug Mastriano shared an image claiming Roe v. Wade is ‘so much’ worse than the Holocaust.”
Last week, Mastriano shared materials with the Jan. 6 select committee investigating Trump’s effort to overturn the result of the 2020 election, including documents regarding his work to arrange buses carrying pro-Trump protesters to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
One prominent Republican in Pennsylvania described post-primary conversations among donors who fear Mastriano may collapse so quickly in the general election that Democrats will be able to redirect money from the governor’s race to down-ballot contests, lifting otherwise vulnerable Democrats in state legislative races.
In December 2019, Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano convened a public hearing on deregulation at an unusual address in his district: 1000 Potato Roll Lane, the global headquarters of Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe in Chambersburg. A large banner hanging behind Mastriano advertised the company’s pillowy potato rolls, world famous for cradling Shake Shack burgers.
Before the hearing, Mastriano invited J. Anthony “Tony” Martin, then the company’s executive vice-president, to the front of the room to cut a large ceremonial string of red tape. Once finished, Martin testified that he’d once needed Mastriano’s predecessor to intervene to stop the state’s Transportation Department from jamming up a project at the Martin’s headquarters. For Martin, the ordeal was a perfect example of the unnecessary hoops the government forced businesses to jump through. But it was also an example of his family’s political connections paying off — the Martins had given generously to the lawmaker, which he failed to mention. After the hearing, everyone went home with a Martin’s tote bag filled with potato rolls, according to Ezra Thrush, an environmental lobbyist who attended the meeting. “It was very weird,” he says. “Usually, these things are held at state government properties or local municipal government buildings, not a company’s headquarters. It felt very slippery.”
Nearly two years to the day later, Mastriano returned to 1000 Potato Roll Lane. Once again, he lined up with Tony Martin and other members of the Martin family for a photo op to commemorate the groundbreaking of a 260,000-square-foot baking line, which, Martin remarked, would lead the company into the future. The Republican state senator was also thinking about his future — a run for governor. He’d spent much of 2021 raising money for such a campaign, and the Martin family was already among his top donors. A few weeks later, shortly before Mastriano officially announced his campaign, Jim Martin, the 75-year-old patriarch of the family and chairman of the board, donated $100,000 to Mastriano’s bid, by far the largest single contribution the state senator would receive during the primary.
The heavy support shocked both longtime customers and veteran political observers, neither of whom had realized the potato-roll empire had propped up Mastriano, who had been little known outside of his district before the pandemic. Over the past two years, Mastriano has won a die-hard base by casting his opposition to lockdown mandates as a holy battle, a framing he also used to claim the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. After the election, Mastriano organized buses for, and attended, the rally that precipitated the attack on the Capitol. As governor, he has said he “could decertify every machine in the state with a stroke of a pen” because he would appoint the secretary of state overseeing the electoral system, raising the possibility he could enact a one-man coup in 2024. (A spokesperson for Mastriano did not respond to requests for comment.)
“We are aware of recent criticisms leveled against Martin’s and our business partners,” Julie Martin, the company’s social-media manager, said in a statement. “Like the rest of the country, Martin’s employees, business partners, and customers hold to a diverse range of personal opinions, beliefs, and values. Although the stockholders who own the company are members of the same family, they also hold a wide range of views. For these reasons, the company, as a matter of policy, does not support any particular candidate or party.”
But the line between the company and the family is blurry. Julie Martin, the spokesperson, is Jim Martin’s daughter, and her brothers, Tony and Joe, serve as president and vice-president of operations. Other members of the family serve throughout the company, and their family factors heavily in the company’s social-media presence, as does their devout Christian faith. Like Mastriano, the Martins are members of a conservative denomination with Mennonite roots. Throughout his campaign, Mastriano unabashedly used the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, the idea that God ordained the United States as a Christian country. The idea, which gained popularity under Trump and is embraced by figures such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, rejects the separation of church and state and promotes more religion in politics, not less. Should Mastriano be elected in November, it would be perhaps the largest triumph for Christian nationalism in recent memory, and it would be thanks, in no small part, to the Martins.
The Donald Trump-endorsed nominee for governor in Pennsylvania compared the Jan. 6 attack to historical events staged by the Nazis, saying that he saw “parallels” between the criticism of the Jan. 6 attack and the 1933 Reichstag fire, which Hitler used to seize more power.
Doug Mastriano was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, has been subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 committee. He organized buses to D.C. that day, according to receipts his campaign’s lawyer previously acknowledged turning over to the Jan. 6 committee. Video shows he was just feet away as rioters ripped down police barricades, but he has said he followed police lines “as they existed” and says he left the Capitol when it was “apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest.”
His primary election victory last month has prompted a renewed look at his role on Jan. 6, including previously unpublished photos that show him in the back of a crowd that breached a police barricade.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D. PA) has been very vocal about how dangerous and extreme Mastriano is:
While also keeping the focus on the key issues:
Health and Democracy are on the ballot this year and we need to get ready to keep Pennsylvania Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Fetterman, Shapiro and these Pennsylvania Democrats campaigns:
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.