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Attorney General Josh Shapiro

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A group of nearly a dozen mostly former Republican leaders in Pennsylvania is breaking with their party to endorse Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro for governor.

The unprecedented move is a rebuke of the GOP gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who is simply too extreme for the cohort of Republicans who have served the Keystone State in Congress, the state legislature and executive branch, and the state Supreme Court. Depending on one's perspective, they are either establishment Republicans who lead the party before it lost its way or RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) by today’s Trumpian standards.

Mastriano is a right-wing radical who has referred to Pennsylvania as "our promised land," took part in the January 6, 2021 riot, and wants to ban abortions without exception in the state. In short, he has all the hallmarks of a Christian nationalist with the authoritarian instincts to match. Mastriano is also overtly running against the type of old-guard Republicans that once dominated the party and some of whom are currently lining up against him.

“It’s time to try something different. It’s time for Republican Gov. Doug Mastriano to have your back, and we’ll have your back,” Mastriano said last week in a Facebook live stream. “We’ll honor and respect your freedoms, lift this state up and bring freedom back.”

*Unless you are pregnant. In that case, Mastriano wants to entirely strip your freedoms away.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the GOP group includes two former U.S. representatives, Charlie Dent and Jim Greenwood; former state House Speaker Denny O’Brien; former Lt. Gov. and longtime state Sen. Robert Jubelirer; and former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman.

The only member of the group who is a current GOP official, Lawrence County Board of Commissioners chair Morgan Boyd, told the Post-Gazette that Pennsylvania had reached a turning point and he viewed Shapiro as “the only candidate with a vision, the experience, and the plan to bring it back.”

“I think there’s actually a large number of moderate Republicans across the state right now who are considering either openly supporting Josh or silently supporting him through their vote,” Boyd said. “I would encourage them to use their experiences to search within their hearts and make the determination themselves that they feel is best for the commonwealth. I think that, by and large, they’ll come to the same conclusion that I did.”

In these divisive times, the breakaway group isn't likely to change the minds of most self-identified Republicans, but they can help create a permission structure for conservatives who feel queasy about Mastriano and the direction of the state party to defect in the fall.

Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, said the “bedrock” group of one-time state party leaders could potentially have an effect on the final outcome in November.

“I think for most Republicans, they accept Mastriano as their nominee and most likely will vote for him,” Borick said, “but on the margins—and the margins are going to be very important—I think the endorsements will help Shapiro’s case in key areas.”

In particular, Shapiro, who ran better in both 2016 and 2020 than presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, needs suburban voters to swing his direction. The only reputable poll of the state to date showed Shapiro four points ahead of Mastriano, but that was within the poll's margin of error.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.


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