Pennsylvania Republicans have nominated state senator Doug Mastriano to be the next governor. Mastriano is one of the most radical gubernatorial candidates ever to receive a major party nomination.
Many Republicans have indulged Trump’s claims that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election. But few have gone as far as Mastriano has to try to justify Trump’s fever dream.
On 25 November, Mastriano “staged a faux legal hearing in Gettysburg, in which Giuliani played prosecutor before a panel of Republican state senators and representatives”. Mastriano introduced a number of “poll watchers” who told unsubstantiated stories of “phantom ballots, hacked machines, and dead voters, which they claimed had all led to an election stolen from Trump”.
Five days later, after all of Trump’s legal challenges had failed and the Pennsylvania secretary of state had formally certified Biden the winner, Mastriano introduced a resolution urging Congress to ignore the official results. His plan was for the Pennsylvania legislature to ignore millions of votes and directly appoint electors pledged to Trump.
Ultimately, Mastriano’s resolution didn’t go anywhere in the Republican-controlled state legislature because Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, did not yield to demands to call a special session. But Mastriano was not deterred. On 10 December 2020, Mastriano signed on to an amicus brief supporting Texas’s effort to convince the US supreme court to throw out the results in Pennsylvania and several other states. That effort also failed.
In the lead-up to 6 January 2021, Mastriano was reportedly “in regular communication with Donald Trump”. On the day, Mastriano was at the US Capitol and was captured on video “walking through police lines with a crowd of people”.
In a statement, Mastriano said that “police lines did shift throughout the course of the day” and he “followed those lines as they existed”. (In February, Mastriano was subpoenaed by the January 6 committee. It is unclear if he complied.)
In July 2021, Mastriano sent a letter “to several counties requesting information and materials needed to conduct a forensic investigation of the 2020 general election and the 2021 primary”. Mastriano’s conduct, however, was so extreme that he was removed from the process by the Republican leadership of the Pennsylvania senate. The senate president, Jake Corman, said that Mastriano was “only ever interested in politics and showmanship and not actually getting things done”.
During his candidacy for governor, Mastriano has been clear that he will use his power – including his authority to appoint the Pennsylvania secretary of state – to influence the administration of future elections. He said the following on 30 March:
I’m Doug Mastriano, and I get to appoint the secretary of state who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the stroke of a pen via the secretary of state. I already had the secretary of state picked out. It’s a world-class person that knows voting integrity better than anyone else in the nation, I think, and I already have a team that’s gonna be built around that individual.
Yesterday, with Trump’s endorsement, Pennsylvania Republicans put him one step closer to the governor’s mansion.
In April, Mastriano spoke at a far-right Christian conference, Patriots Arise for God and Country, which was organized by “Francine and Allen Fodsick, self-described prophets who have long promoted QAnon”, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. At the outset of the event, organizers played a video “claiming the world is experiencing a ‘great awakening’ that will expose ‘ritual child sacrifice’ and a ‘global satanic blood cult’”. The QAnon conspiracy alleges that top Democratic officials and celebrities are Satan-worshipers running a secret child sex-trafficking ring. The video also featured allegations that 9/11 was a false flag, vaccines are “genocide therapy”, and Hitler faked his death.
Last year, the Fodsicks promoted Mastriano on promotional material for the event, but Mastriano said he would not attend. At the time, a spokesman said Mastriano “strongly condemns the ‘Q anon’ conspiracy theory” and “never committed to speak at this event but sadly was used to help promote it with his picture on the invite”.
Last month, Mastriano attended as a featured speaker, using his remarks to complain about the “persecution and oppression” he was subjected to for contesting the 2020 presidential election. The Fodsicks auctioned a portrait of Trump for $4,000 during the event, with the proceeds going to Mastriano’s campaign. This year, his campaign did not respond to a request for comment by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In a 31 March appearance at the PA Pro Life Coalition, Mastriano said supporters of abortion rights wanted to “wipe out” Black and Latino communities. He said he believed “that’s a baby from Day 1 – at conception”. Mastriano said “my objective, of course, is to save life at conception and not play games”.
In a 27 April debate, Mastriano said opposition to abortion is his “No 1 issue”. The first bill he introduced in the Pennsylvania senate was a “heartbeat” bill – which would ban abortion after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. But Mastriano said that, as Pennsylvania’s governor, he would “work our way” toward a total abortion ban from conception. Mastriano made clear that he doesn’t support any “exceptions” to abortion bans for rape, incest or life of the mother.
Mastriano’s position on abortion reflect his Christian nationalist worldview. Christian nationalism, the New Yorker reports, is rooted in “the idea that God intended America to be a Christian nation”. During his time as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan he “developed a dim view of Islam”. He has frequently “spread Islamophobic memes online”, including “a conspiracy theory that Ilhan Omar, the Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, directed fellow-Muslims to throw a five-year-old over a balcony”.
After retiring from the military and successfully running for office in 2019, Mastriano “began attending events held by a movement called the New Apostolic Reformation”. Members of the New Apostolic Reformation believe “that God speaks to them directly, and that they have been tasked with battling real-world demons who control global leaders”. (Mastriano says he has not “worked directly” with the group.)
In the legislature, Mastriano has supported a bill that “would have mandated teaching the Bible in public schools and would have made it legal for adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples”.”
Judd Legum is the founder and author of Popular Information, an independent newsletter dedicated to accountability journalism, where this post originally appeared