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Trump endorses Doug Mastriano for Pennsylvania governor

Former President Trump announced Saturday he would be endorsing Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) in the state’s gubernatorial election, seeking to boost him just days ahead of the Tuesday primary.

“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in a statement issued through his Save America PAC, before echoing a baseless claim about the 2020 presidential election results.

“He will also Fight Violent Crime, Strengthen our Borders, Protect Life, Defend our under-siege Second Amendment, and Help our Military and our Vets. He 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,” Trump said.

Mastriano said in a statement later that he was “honored” to received Trump’s endorsement.

“But the honor is not for me. It’s for the millions of hard-working Pennsylvanians who want their individual liberties restored, power returned to the people, and for their elected leaders to fulfill the America First — and Pennsylvania First — agenda,” Mastriano said.

Axios reported on Friday that Trump was heavily considering backing Mastriano, who was subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

In a letter to the Republican state lawmaker back in February, the committee cited a tweet he issued weeks after the 2020 election was called. He tweeted at the time, “There is mounting evidence that the PA presidential election was compromised. If this is the case, under Article II, Section 1.2 of the US Constitution, the state legislature has the sole authority to direct the manner of selecting delegates to the Electoral College.”

“Therefore, we are introducing a Resolution to exercise our obligation and authority to appoint delegates to the Electoral College,” he added later in a follow-up tweet.

Jan. 6 select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote to Mastriano, saying the panel understood he was involved in efforts to present the Senate with alternative electors and that he had been in communication with Trump.

“We understand you participated in these activities based on assertions of voter fraud and other asserted irregularities and based on a stated belief that under the U.S. Constitution the ‘state legislature has the sole authority to direct the manner of selecting delegates to the Electoral College.’ We have an interest in understanding these activities and the theories that motivated them,” Thompson wrote.

Trump’s endorsement comes three days before the Pennsylvania primary, as Mastriano seeks to shore up support among Republicans. 

Other GOP candidates vying for the governor’s seat in Pennsylvania include former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Montgomery County commissioner Joseph Gale, former U.S. Attorney William McSwain, and Ridley Township Commissioner Dave White, among others. 

A Fox News poll earlier this week showed Mastriano with a double-digit lead in the race, with 29 percent support followed by Barletta at 17 percent and McSwain at 13 percent.

However, Republicans have grown so alarmed that Mastriano’s narrow focus on 2020 and links to QAnon and others will make him unelectable against state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running virtually unopposed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. 

Several campaigns, as well as some state GOP officials, began talking in recent days about coalescing behind one alternative to Mastriano. However, the other top-polling candidates like Barletta, McSwain and White, have refused to drop out, even as some lower-polling contenders have suspended their bids to back Barletta. 

The Trump endorsement for Mastriano will likely make concerns reach a fever pitch, given the candidate’s already strong polling lead and the value the former president’s backing has in a GOP primary. 

“[Mastriano is] too extreme,” one GOP strategist with extensive experience in Pennsylvania told The Hill before the endorsement. “He’s one of those guys who just crawls down those conspiracy rabbit holes, and beyond that, he’s got no experience outside his small world of true believers. Well, you can’t just appeal to that group. I mean, this isn’t Kansas, OK, not that he can even maybe win in Kansas.” 

Should those concerns bear out in November, it also poses significant risks for Trump, who could end up being blamed for pushing Shapiro into the governor’s mansion. 

The former president takes great pride in the successes of his endorsed candidates and often rewards those who loyally claim his mantle of 2020 election fraud. However, he suffered a loss earlier this week when his chosen candidate in the Nebraska gubernatorial race fell short in the GOP primary. 

Trump appeared to dismiss concerns over Mastriano’s electability, insisting that both he and Mehmet Oz, the celebrity surgeon he endorsed in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, will both win in November. 

“Doug Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz will make an unbeatable team going into the most important Midterm Election in the history of our Country,” Trump said Saturday. “They will Fight, they will Win, and they will Produce for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and for the USA itself.” 

This year possibly offers Republicans their best shot at flipping the governor’s mansion, which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is vacating because of term limits.

The open race in an expected wave year for the GOP is a prime chance for Republicans to finally achieve unified control in Harrisburg along with their bicameral state legislative majorities — a long-sought goal after seeing Wolf stymie many of their priorities with his veto pen. 

“I don’t want to see my party pull a Thelma and Louise and go over the cliff when we have an opportunity in front of us to really put this commonwealth back on a track,” Sam DeMarco, the chair of the Allegheny County GOP who’s involved in the talks to coalesce behind a Mastriano alternative, told The Hill earlier this week. 

Updated: 1:08 p.m.

Tags Bennie Thompson governor josh shapiro Lou Barletta Trump

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