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Tag: doug mastriano

Former Trump Election Lawyer Joins Mastriano’s Insurrectionist Campaign

.The Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania announced on Monday that he hired one of the loudest and most visible figures in former President Donald Trump's failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election to stay in power.

GOP nominee Doug Mastriano brought on Jenna Ellis as a senior legal adviser for his gubernatorial campaign, saying in a statement that Ellis' "talent, experience, and legal expertise" will "be an important factor" in his race against Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro. Inside Elections, a nonpartisan political handicapping outlet, rates the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election as a "Tilts Democratic" contest.

Ellis was an integral member of the Trump campaign's legal team that sought to steal the election.

She was onstage at the now-infamous news conference the Trump campaign held at Republican National Committee headquarters on November 19, 2020, in which she described herself as a member of an "elite strike force" of lawyers working to challenge the election results in court and prove Trump's baseless allegations of voter fraud. Those lawsuits failed at nearly every level of the court system, and the campaign never proved its claims of widespread voter fraud.

Ellis was also a visible figure in the Trump campaign's strategy to hold hearings in state legislatures across the country to push baseless allegations of voter fraud.

And she reportedly authored two memos that sought to push then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify President Joe Biden's Electoral College win on January 6, 2021 — the day a pro-Trump mob mercilessly beat law enforcement as they forced their way into the Capitol to try to keep Trump in power.

Ellis is currently being sued for defamation and civil conspiracy by James Savage, the voting machine warehouse custodian in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Savage's lawsuit alleges that Ellis — along with former Trump legal adviser Rudy Giuliani and other GOP officials — falsely claimed he tampered with voting machines. As a result, Savage said he has received threats and suffered two heart attacks.

"Simply put, Mr. Savage's physical safety, and his reputation, were acceptable collateral damage for the wicked intentions of the Defendants herein, executed during their lubricious attempt to question the legitimacy of President Joseph Biden's win in Pennsylvania — an effort utterly bereft of any evidence in support thereof, as stated by a number of state and federal courts in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania," the lawsuit reads.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attacks subpoenaed Ellis in January over her role in the plot, alleging that Ellis "prepared and circulated two memos purporting to analyze the constitutional authority for the Vice President to reject or delay counting electoral votes from states that had submitted alternate slates of electors."

While Mastriano cites Ellis' "experience" as a reason why he brought her on as an adviser to his campaign, the New York Times reported in 2020 that Ellis had never appeared in either federal or circuit courts to argue Constitutional cases.

Mastriano, for his part, is also a prominent figure in the failed effort to overturn Biden's win.

As a member of the state Senate, Mastriano tried to appoint fake Electoral College electors who would choose Trump instead of Biden, despite the fact that Biden won Pennsylvania.

His campaign paid for buses of protesters to head to Washington, D.C., for Trump's "Stop The Steal" rally. Mastriano was later photographed past the police barricades on the Capitol grounds during the violent insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

And he tried to push an Arizona-style "audit" of Pennsylvania's vote to try to prove the voter fraud lies.

Like Ellis, Mastriano has also been subpoenaed by the January 6 select committee.

Mastriano is now the GOP nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, where he would have the ability to overturn the results of an election if he didn't like the victor.

Last week, Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill sponsored by Mastriano that would allow out-of-county poll watchers to challenge election officials and could lead to increased voter intimidation. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is term-limited, will likely veto the bill.

Democrats have warned that a Mastriano victory in November could pose a threat to the future of Pennsylvania's elections.

"Doug Mastriano won't be leaving his dangerous election conspiracy theories on the campaign trail. If he wins, they'll be the cornerstone of his administration," the Pennsylvania Democratic Party tweeted. "He is a threat to our fundamental rights at every level."

Inside Elections, a nonpartisan political handicapping outlet, rates the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election as a "Tilts Democratic" contest.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Mastriano Suggests Abortion ‘So Much Worse’ Than The Holocaust

Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano has repeatedly used his Facebook page to compare abortion to the Holocaust, an analogy that Holocaust remembrance officials have called “unacceptable” and “abhorrent.” In one instance, Mastriano shared a cartoon which claimed that Roe v. Wade is “so much” worse than the Holocaust and featured a Nazi bowing down to the number of “USA Abortions.”

Mastriano is a right-wing commentator, January 6 insurrectionist, and Pennsylvania state senator. He’s also a frequent guest in right-wing media.

Mastriano has a long history of pushing extreme commentaries, including content that promotes QAnon, lies about the 2020 election being stolen, anti-Muslim bigotry, and COVID-19 conspiracy theories and falsehoods. Forward recently reported that Mastriano “has in the past invoked Nazi-era analogies in the debate over gun control.”

On his Facebook page, the Republican gubernatorial nominee has repeatedly compared abortion to the Holocaust.

On February 16, 2019, Mastriano shared a cartoon from the organization Answers in Genesis featuring a Nazi and Joseph Stalin bowing down to a Grim Reaper labeled Roe v. Wade. A dialogue bubble from the Nazi and Stalin says: “You are so much greater than we ever were!” The cartoon includes death figures of 17 million for the Holocaust; 23 million for Stalin; and 57.5 million for “USA Abortions.” Mastriano commented: “So sad.”

On December 21, 2019, he shared a Facebook video from Lila Rose — the leader of anti-abortion group Live Action — that links the abortion pill mifepristone to the gas used to murder Jews in the Holocaust.

And on November 24, 2020, he shared a post on the website of Live Action with the headline, “My visit to Auschwitz reminded me why I oppose abortion.” The Live Action piece defended comparing the Holocaust to abortion, stating: “The greatest disrespect I could possibly lend to the victims of the Holocaust is the refusal to apply the lessons of that horrific history to the horrors of today, thus repeating the deadly mistakes of the past.”

Anti-abortion activists have a long history of using the Holocaust to justify their opposition to abortion. People who work for Holocaust memorial organizations have criticized such comparisons.

In 2019, Kathrin Meyer, the executive secretary for the intergovernmental International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, stated: “The comparison made between abortion and the Holocaust is abhorrent. The suggestion is offensive and trivializes the Holocaust, offending the memory of Holocaust victims and survivors. These two matters are in no way related and to seek to make this comparison for political purposes is completely unacceptable.”

And in 2020, a spokesperson for the U.K.-government-backed Holocaust Memorial Day Trust stated: “It is unacceptable to draw comparisons between the Holocaust and abortion practice. The Holocaust was a unique, identity-based, extermination of a people, during which a state-sponsored slaughter of six million Jews took place before and during the Second World War.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Mastriano Shared Post Warning Against Electing Muslims (Like Dr. Oz) To Congress

Doug Mastriano is a QAnon conspiracy theorist and January 6 insurrectionist who this week won the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor. Mastriano is also anti-Muslim: He previously shared an image with the words, “Stop Islam” and a post claiming that “the American People have a right to be fearful of the prospect of a large number of muslims being elected to congress, specifically if they practice Sharia law.”

In addition to running for governor, Mastriano is a Pennsylvania state senator, a right-wing commentator, and a frequent guest in right-wing media. He regularly pushes lies about the 2020 election being stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Mastriano has shared toxic conspiracy theories on social media. Media Matters previously documented that Mastriano sent more than 50 tweets with the QAnon hashtag in 2018 and used Facebook to share false claims that vaccines are deadly and cause autism.

Mastriano is behind the Facebook page "Doug Mastriano Fighting for Freedom," which frequently posts his commentaries. On August 20, 2018, Mastriano shared a piece from the defunct website DailyTack.com which had the headline “Over 90 Jihadi’s Are Running For Office As Democrats.”

In the piece, author Harry Cherry wrote that “between 90 and 100 Muslims are running for office this year, the most since September 11th, 2001 – the Associated Press has reported. … The bottom line is that the American People have a right to be fearful of the prospect of a large number of muslims being elected to congress, specifically if they practice Sharia law.”

From the piece Mastriano shared:

Between 90 and 100 Muslims are running for office this year, the most since September 11th, 2001 – the Associated Press has reported.

Around 50 of those candidates will remain after primaries, according to the Associated Press. However, that number is drastically higher than the dozen Muslim candidates that ran in 2016.

Many of the candidates say they were motivated by anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. – rightly so after 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing and the San Bernardino Massacre. Leftists blame President Trump and the travel ban from 7 “muslim-majority countries,” however all 3 terror attacks listed above, were committed in the United States by muslims – long before Donald Trump ever ran for President. The bottom line is that the American People have a right to be fearful of the prospect of a large number of muslims being elected to congress, specifically if they practice Sharia law. Sharia law is the practice of utilizing the punishments listed in the Quran in one’s daily life, including in public. Sharia law also promotes the killing of Jews and Gays.

Mastriano also shared an image on December 8, 2018, which stated: “In the name of tolerance we have imported intolerance. People who respect neither the culture nor the rights of the original population.” That text was imposed on a graphic stating, “Stop Islam.”

Mastriano has made similar anti-Muslim posts. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported on May 6, 2019, that he “shared a stream of conspiracy theories and Islamophobic memes and articles” on Facebook. In one instance, the publication noted that Mastriano shared a piece from August 4, 2018, with the headline, “A Dangerous Trend: Muslims Running for Office.”

Mehmet Oz, who is currently in contention for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, is Muslim and has criticized former opponent Kathy Barnette for writing that “Pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam,” calling the remark “disqualifying.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

GOP Split: Far Right Gains Ground In East, While Losing Out West

The Republican Party’s radical right flank is making inroads among voters and winning key primaries east of the Mississippi. But out West, among the five states that held their 2022 primary elections on May 17, a string of GOP candidates for office who deny the 2020’s presidential election results and have embraced various conspiracies were rejected by Republicans who voted for more mainstream conservatives.

In Pennsylvania, Douglas Mastriano, an election denier and white nationalist, won the GOP’s nomination for governor. He received 568,000 votes, which was 44.1 percent of the vote in a low turnout primary. One-quarter of Pennsylvania’s nine million registered voters cast ballots.

In Idaho, by contrast, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who also claimed Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate and has campaigned at white supremacist rallies, according to the Western States Center, an Oregon-based group that monitors the far-right, lost her bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination to incumbent Gov. Brad Little.

Idaho also saw two 2020 election-denying candidates vying for the GOP nomination for secretary of state lose to a career civil servant and election administrator who defended 2020’s results as accurate. On the other hand, an ex-congressman who is an election denier won the GOP primary for attorney general.

“In addition to Janice McGeachin, who was defeated in her bid for governor, a number of other anti-democracy candidates were rejected by voters, including Priscilla Giddings, who ran for [Idaho] Lieutenant Governor; Dorothy Moon, who ran for Secretary of State; and Chad Christensen, Todd Engel and Eric Parker, who mounted bids for the state legislature,” the Western States Center’s analysis said. “In Ada County, anti-Semitic sheriff candidate Doug Traubel was soundly defeated, alongside losses for Proud Boy and conspiratorial candidates in Oregon.”

Voters in western states with histories of far-right organizing and militia violence have more experience sizing up extremist politics and candidates than voters out east, the Center suggested. However, as May 17’s five state primaries make clear, the GOP’s far right flank is ascendant nationally.

Various stripes of GOP conspiracy theorists and uncompromising culture war-embracing candidates attracted a third or more of the May 17 primary electorate, a volume of votes sufficient to win some high-stakes races in crowded fields.

Low Turnouts Boost GOP Radicals

The highest-profile contests were in the presidential swing state of Pennsylvania, where Mastriano, a state legislator, won the gubernatorial primary with votes from less than seven percent of Pennsylvania’s nine million registered voters.

In its primary for an open U.S. Senate seat, several thousand votes separated two election-denier candidates, a margin that will trigger a recount. As Pennsylvania’s mailed-out ballots are counted and added into totals, the lead keeps shifting between hedge-fund billionaire David McCormick and celebrity broadcaster Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Mastriano campaigned on his rejection of President Joe Biden’s victory, chartered buses to transport Trump supporters to the U.S. Capitol for what became the January 6 insurrection, is stridently anti-abortion and often says his religion shapes his politics. On his primary victory night, he sounded like former President Trump, proclaiming that he and his base were aggrieved underdogs.

“We’re under siege now,” Mastriano told supporters, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report. “The media doesn’t like groups of us who believe certain things.”

That “siege” appears to include a cold shoulder from pro-corporate Republicans who campaigned against Mastriano as the primary crested, fearing that he would lose in the fall’s general election. A day after the May 17 primary, the Republican Governors Association downplayed his victory, a signal that it was unlikely to steer donors toward him, the Washington Post reported.

Other election-denying candidates sailed to victory across Pennsylvania, including five GOP congressmen who voted against certifying their state’s 2020 Electoral College slate: Scott Perry, John Joyce, Mike Kelly, Guy Reschenthaler and Lloyd Smucker. Their primaries, while not garnering national attention, underscore Trump’s enduring impact on wide swathes of the Republican Party.

It remains to be seen if any of the primary winners will prevail in the fall’s general election. It may be that candidates who can win in crowded primary fields when a quarter to a third of voters turn out will not win in the fall, when turnout is likely to double. But a closer look at some primary results shows that large numbers of Republican voters are embracing extremists – even if individual candidates lose.

That trend can be seen in Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor’s race. The combined votes of three election-denying candidates (Rick Saccone, 15.63 percent; Teddy Daniels, 12.28 percent; Russ Diamond, 5.87 percent) was about 35 percent. That share of the party’s electorate, had it voted for one candidate, would have defeated the primary winner, Carrie Delrosso, a more moderate Republican who received 25.88 percent of the vote and will have to defend conspiracies as Mastriano’s running mate.

Fissures Inside the GOP

While Trump-appeasing candidates won primaries in May 17’s four other primary states – Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oregon – some outspoken and badly behaved GOP radicals, such as North Carolina’s Rep. Madison Cawthorn, lost to a more traditional conservative Republican.

Cawthorn was defeated by Chuck Edwards, a pro-business Republican and state senator described by the Washington Post as “a McDonald’s franchise owner [who] was head of the local chamber of commerce.”

Edwards campaigned on returning the House to a GOP majority and backed a predictable obstructionist agenda to block the Biden White House, as opposed to Cawthorn’s embrace of 2020 election conspiracies and incendiary antics – which included taking loaded guns on planes and accusing other GOP congressmen of lurid and illegal behavior.

Edward’s focus, the Post reported, “will be on ‘removing the gavel out of Nancy Pelosi’s hand, and then taking the teleprompter from Joe Biden and restoring the policies that we enjoyed under the Trump administration, to help get this country back on track.’”

Cawthorn’s defeat came as North Carolina Republicans chose a Trump-praising candidate, Ted Budd, for its U.S. Senate nomination over an ex-governor, Pat McCrory.

As Tim Miller noted in the May 18 morning newsletter from The Bulwark, a pro-Republican but anti-Trump news and opinion website, McCrory had “criticized Trump over his Putinphilia and insurrectionist incitement… he lost bigly to Ted Budd, a milquetoast Trump stooge who will do what he’s told.”

As in Pennsylvania, a handful of incumbent congressmembers in North Carolina who voted to reject their 2020 Electoral College slate, easily won their primaries.

“Virginia Foxx and Greg Murphy voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election after the events of January 6 and have been endorsed by Trump in their 2022 campaigns,” said a May 17 factsheet from ProjectDefendDemocracy.com, a website that tracks the GOP’s election-denying candidates. “Foxx was later fined $5,000 for failing to comply with security measures put in place in the House after the January 6 attack and Murphy has claimed that antifa may have been responsible for the violence at the Capitol.”

Foxx won her primary with 77 percent of the vote. Murphy won his primary with 76 percent of the vote.

Idaho Republicans Clash

The election-denial and conspiracy-embracing candidates fared less well in May 17’s primaries out West, the Western States Center’s analysis noted.

“Yesterday in elections in Oregon and Idaho, anti-democracy candidates were defeated in several marquee races,” it said. “Most notably, Idaho gubernatorial hopeful Janice McGeachin, whose embrace of white nationalism and militias was soundly rejected by voters.”

In the GOP primary for secretary of state, which oversees Idaho’s elections, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, narrowly beat two 2020 election deniers, state Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) and state Sen. Mary Souza (R-Coeur d’Alene). McCrane had 43.1 percent or 114,392 votes. Moon had 41.4 percent, or 109,898 votes. Souza had 15.5 percent or 41,201 votes.

“Donald Trump carried Idaho by 30 points in 2020, but… State Rep. Dorothy Moon has alleged without evidence that people are ‘coming over and voting’ in Idaho from Canada and called for the decertification of the 2020 election,” said ProjectDefendDemocracy.com’s factsheet. “State Sen. Mary Souza is part of the voter suppression group the Honest Elections Project and has blamed ‘ballot harvesting’ for Biden’s victory. Only Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane has stated that he believes that Idaho’s elections are legitimate, and that Joe Biden was the winner of the 2020 election.”

Another way of looking at the contest’s results is that an election-denying candidate might have won, had Idaho’s Republican Party more forcefully controlled how many candidates were running for this office. Together, Moon and Souza won nearly 57 percent of the vote, compared to McCrane’s 43 percent.

McGrane will be part of a GOP ticket that includes an election denier who won the primary for attorney general. Former congressman Raul Labrador received 51.5 percent of the vote, compared to the five-term incumbent, Lawrence Wasden, who received 37.9 percent. Labrador accused Wasden of “being insufficiently committed to overturning the 2020 election,” ProjectDefendDemocracy said.

On the other hand, another 2020 election defender won his GOP primaries. Rep. Mike Simpson won 53.3 percent of the vote in Idaho’s second U.S. House district in a field with several challengers who attacked him for being one of 35 House Republicans who voted in favor of creating the January 6 committee.

What Do GOP Voters Want?

But Mastriano’s victory in Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, more so than any other outcome from May 17’s primaries, is “giving the GOP fits,” as the New York Times’ Blake Hounshell, its ‘On Politics’ editor, wrote Wednesday.

“Conversations with Republican strategists, donors and lobbyists in and outside of Pennsylvania in recent days reveal a party seething with anxiety, dissension and score-settling over Mastriano’s nomination,” Hounshell said.

That assessment may be accurate. But one key voice – or GOP sector – is missing from the Times’ analysis: the GOP’s primary voter, a third or more on May 17, embraced conspiratorial candidates – though more widely in the East than in the West.

“For decades we’ve seen that our [western] region has been a bellwether for white nationalist and paramilitary attacks on democratic institutions and communities, but also home to the broad, moral coalitions that have risen up to defeat them,” said the Western States Center’s Eric K. Ward. “The defeat of anti-democracy candidates with white nationalist and paramilitary ties up and down the ballot is evidence that those of us committed to inclusive democracy, even if we have vastly different political views, do indeed have the power to come together to defeat movements that traffic in bigotry, white nationalism, and political violence.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Christian Nationalist Mastriano Rising In Pennsylvania Primary

J.D. Vance, the Ohioan who grew up poor, joined the Marines, got a Yale law degree, wrote a bestseller about his hardscrabble upbringing, became a venture capitalist, and panned Donald Trump before becoming a convert to Trumpism and winning Ohio’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate, is one brand of 2022’s Republican candidates—a shapeshifter, as the New York Times’ conservative columnist Bret Stephens noted.

“He’s just another example of an increasingly common type: the opportunistic, self-abasing, intellectually dishonest, morally situational former NeverTrumper who saw Trump for exactly what he was until he won and then traded principles and clarity for a shot at gaining power,” Stephens said in a conversation with New York Times liberal columnist Gail Collins that was published on May 9.

But the GOP’s frontrunner for governor in Pennsylvania’s crowded May 17 primary field, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, is an entirely different Republican: a man of deep religious and political convictions who, if he wins the nomination and the general election, could be problematic for Americans who do not want elected officials to impose their personal beliefs on the wider public, whether the topic is abortion, vaccines, denying election results, or calling on God’s help to seize political power.

Mastriano’s current lead among nine candidates, with nearly 28 percent, could be taken two ways. He could be an extremist, like Trump in 2016, who won because too many contenders split the mainstream vote in a low-turnout primary. (In 2018, less than one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s voters turned out—suggesting that 2022’s winner may be nominated by as little as 5 percent of its state electorate.) Or, if Pennsylvania’s GOP were more firmly in control of its nomination process, Mastriano’s support might pale next to the establishment’s pick.

It remains to be seen if voters’ allegiances will shift as May 17 approaches, especially as the Democrats’ likely nominee, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has signaled that Mastriano is the Republican he would most like to run against in the general election by launching TV attack ads. Centrist Republicans also are attacking Mastriano, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports it’s not working.

Mastriano’s prospects, and his chances in the upcoming general election in the fall as another breed of 2022’s GOP mavericks, suggest that wider currents are roiling American politics, including, in this national battleground state, a mainstreaming of white Christian nativism.

Mastriano is a retired Army military intelligence officer and Army War College historian (whose error-filled 2014 biography of a World War I heroic Christian soldier embarrassed its university press). In uniform, he served overseas in Eastern Europe, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His career in elected office started in a predictable rightward fashion: proposing a bill to ban abortion. But after 2020’s election, he emerged from local ranks as an early and fervent member of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” cavalry who sought to subvert the certification of its winner, Pennsylvania native Joe Biden, who officially beat Trump by 80,000 votes.

Mastriano invited Big Lie propagandist Rudy Giuliani and others to legislative hearings. On January 6, 2021, he bussed Trump supporters to the U.S. Capitol, and newly surfaced videos show that he followed them past police barriers. He opposed COVID-19 mandates, and in mid-2021 started calling for an Arizona-style “audit” of the state’s 2020 presidential election results. But unlike Arizona’s effort, led by the Cyber Ninjas’ Doug Logan, another deeply observant but more private Christian, Mastriano is vocal about how much his religion influences his politics.

A New Yorker profile by Eliza Griswold on May 9 characterizes Mastriano as a white Christian nationalist—a term he rejects—who, before the January 6 Capitol riot, “exhorted his followers to ‘do what George Washington asked us to do in 1775. Appeal to Heaven. Pray to God. We need an intervention.’”

On the 2020 election denial front, Mastriano is not alone. Although he was leading in a crowded field, there are other candidates for governor who have been falsely proclaiming that Democrats stole their state’s 2020 election and the presidency, and even forged Electoral College documents sent to Washington, D.C.

“If you thought Donald Trump’s endorsement of Dr. Mehmet Oz for Senate was the worst development in Pennsylvania’s 2022 GOP primaries, wait until you hear about the Republicans running for governor,” wrote Amanda Carpenter, a political columnist for the Bulwark, an anti-Trump Republican news and opinion website.

“They’re all election conspiracists.” she continued. “The only thing differentiating them is how far down the rabbit hole they go. And, there’s an excellent chance the nuttiest bunny of them all, Doug Mastriano, is going to win the primary.”

But Mastriano is not a mere Trump imitator. He is cut from an older, more gothic American political cloth: mixing a nativist piety, conspiratorial mindset, and authoritarian reflexes. The Philadelphia Inquirer characterized his unbending religiosity as belonging to the “charismatic strand of Christianity.” The New Yorker’s Griswold concluded that “Mastriano’s rise embodies the spread of a movement centered on the belief that God intended America to be a Christian nation.”

This political type is not new, wrote Kevin Phillips, a former Republican strategist and historian, in 2006 in American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, which detailed how George W. Bush’s evangelism tainted his presidency. However, Mastriano’s ascension, coupled with a Trump-fortified U.S. Supreme Court that’s poised to void a woman’s right to abortion, affirms today’s reemergence of a radical right.

“Christianity in the United States, especially Protestantism, has always had an evangelical—which is to say, missionary—and frequently a radical or combative streak,” wrote Phillips. “Some message has always had to be preached, punched, or proselytized.”

Add in Mastriano’s embrace of Trumpian authoritarianism, and the Keystone State’s leading GOP candidate for governor is proudly part of this pantheon. As the Inquirer wrote on May 4, he “often invokes Esther, the biblical Jewish queen who saved her people from slaughter by Persians, casting himself and his followers as God’s chosen people who have arrived at a crossroads—and who must now defend their country, their very lives.”

“It is the season of Purim,” Mastriano said, according to the paper’s report of a “March [campaign] event in Lancaster, referring to the Jewish holiday celebrated in the Book of Esther.” The gubernatorial candidate continued, “And God has turned the tables on the Democrats and those who stand against what is good in America. It’s true.”

A Heavy Hand?

It’s hardly new for Republicans to demonize Democrats. But under Trump, the enemies list has grown to include not just the media (Mastriano has barred reporters from rallies and abruptly ended interviews), but America’s “secular democracy” (as Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University and the author of Jesus and John Wayne, put it in Griswold’s piece for the New Yorker). This targeting includes the government civil servants who administer elections and the technology used to cast and count votes.

When it comes to election administration, if elected governor, Mastriano gets to appoint the secretary of state, the state’s top election regulator. He also has pledged to sign legislation to curtail voting with mailed-out ballots, which was how 2.6 million Pennsylvanians—about 38 percent of voters, including nearly 600,000 Trump voters—cast 2020’s presidential ballots. (As of May 10, nearly 900,000 voters had applied for a mailed-out ballot for 2022’s primary.) Such a policy shift, if enacted, would deeply inconvenience, if not discourage, voter turnout.

Mastriano, if elected, could also play an outsized role should the presidency in 2024 hinge on Pennsylvania’s 19 presidential electors. In the wake of the 2020 election, as Trump and his allies filed and lost more than 60 election challenge suits, one of their arguments was the U.S. Constitution decrees that state legislatures set the “time, place and manner” of elections. That authority could include rejecting the popular vote in presidential elections and appointing an Electoral College slate favoring the candidate backed by a legislative majority, which, in Pennsylvania, has been Republican since 2011’s extreme gerrymander.

Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of recent litigation over this power grab, the so-called “independent state legislature doctrine.” If elected governor, Mastriano could hasten a constitutional crisis, because under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which was designed to say how competing slates of presidential electors are to be resolved, the governor—not the state legislature—has the final say, according to Edward B. Foley, a widely respected election law scholar.

“A key provision of the act says that if the [U.S.] House and Senate are split [on ratifying a state’s Electoral College slate], the governor of the state in dispute becomes the tiebreaker,” Foley wrote in 2016, when scholars were gaming post-Election Day scenarios in Trump’s race against Hillary Clinton. While speculating about 2024 is premature, there’s some precedent to heed.

After the 2020 election, 84 people in seven battleground states that Biden won, including Pennsylvania, sent lists of unauthorized Trump electors to the National Archives in Washington. Two of Mastriano’s primary opponents, ex-congressman Lou Barletta and Charlie Gerow, signed the fake Electoral College slates. Mastriano, however, did not.

With days to go before the primary, Josh Shapiro, the Democrats’ likely nominee for governor (he is running unopposed in the party primary) is already running anti-Mastriano TV ads seeking to tie the Republican candidate to Trump. (Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, faces term limits and cannot seek reelection.) Shapiro’s strategy to elevate Mastriano is “dangerous,” according to Inquirer columnist Will Bunch, as it affirms Mastriano’s credentials to voters and could backfire in the fall—in a replay of Trump’s 2016 victory in the state.

“A Gov. Mastriano, Shapiro’s new TV spot says, would effectively ban abortion in the Keystone State and, the narrator continues, ‘he led the fight to audit the 2020 election,’” Bunch wrote on May 8. “‘If Mastriano wins, it’s a win for what Donald Trump stands for.’ Cue the Satanic music, maybe the only clue that the Shapiro campaign thinks these are bad things. The commercial’s closing pitch: ‘Is that what we want in Pennsylvania?’”

“The answer, for far too many people in a state where the wife-cheating, private-part-grabbing xenophobe won by 44,292 votes in 2016, would, unfortunately, be ‘yes.’”

But a Mastriano primary victory would be more than the latest affirmation of the ex-president’s sway over swaths of today’s GOP. It heralds the rise of “radicalized religion,” as Phillips wrote in American Theocracy about fundamentalists and George W. Bush’s presidency, merged with more recent Trumpian authoritarianism.

“Few questions will be more important to the 21st-century United States than whether renascent religion and its accompanying political hubris will be carried on the nation’s books as an asset or as a liability,” Phillips wrote. “While sermons and rhetoric propounding American exceptionalism proclaim religiosity an asset, a sober array of historical precedents—the pitfalls of imperial Christian overreach from Rome to Britain—tip the scales toward liability.”

Reprinted with permission from Independent Media Institute.

Pennsylvania Republicans Fear Nominating Mastriano For Governor

Republicans in Pennsylvania are expressing growing concern about the possibility of the party being defeated in November for the state's gubernatorial election.

According to Politico, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Penn.) appears to be the frontrunner and Republican leaders are reportedly working tirelessly being the scenes to ensure he does not end up with the Republican nomination.

As the primary election approaches, "GOP gubernatorial campaigns and leading state and county officials have been in discussions about uniting behind a single candidate to avoid a scenario in which Mastriano wins the crowded race by taking advantage of a splintered vote. If that doesn’t work, another option is persuading the candidates in single-digits in the polls to drop out."

Speaking to Politico, Andy Reilly, a Republican National Committee (RNC) member, Sam DeMarco, who served as the Allegheny County Republican Party chair, and other sources opened up about their concerns.

“There’s so much that concerns me about this,” DeMarco told the news outlet as he specified that he was only speaking for himself as opposed to the entire group. “We’re in a year where all evidence points to a red tsunami. And it appears here in Pennsylvania, because of the number of people in the race and his smaller but consistent base of support, we may be nominating the only Republican who would be unelectable in November.”

Reilly also released a statement detailing his concerns.

In a statement to Politico, Reilly said, “As National Committeeman, I have spoken regularly with almost all of the gubernatorial campaigns over the past [three] months. Last week when the presumptive [Democratic] nominee, Josh Shapiro, and the State Democratic Party used campaign resources to assist the candidacy of Doug Mastriano in the Republican primary, it raised concerns among the campaigns. Those concerns have led to discussions among the campaigns of which I have been occasionally involved.”

Reilly also added that “the state party voted not to endorse a candidate, any decision a campaign makes to endorse another candidate, suspend their campaign or stay in the race is entirely the decision of that campaign.”

Mike Conallen, the former chief of staff for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) who now serves as a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania, also explained why he believes Mastriano will have the most difficult time clinching a gubernatorial win. The Republican candidate, who has been a vocal supporter of Trump and his voter fraud conspiracies, leaves heavily to the far right. For Conallen, it seems that may be a bit problematic.

“I think there is a significant level of concern that Mastriano, of all of the primary candidates, will have the most difficult time in the general, just because of the level of his conservative viewpoints and policies,” said Conallen. “There was the general consensus that even though he was the most likely to win the primary, he was going to have the toughest time in the general.”`

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Top Pennsylvania Democrat Says Trumpists Committed All Voter Fraud In State

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) is fed up with Republicans' circulation of false claims about voter fraud in his state. On Saturday, July 10, Fetterman appeared on MSNBC where he raised concerns about the dangerous spread of misinformation about the 2020 presidential election.

Speaking to MSNBC's Ali Velshi, Fetterman made it clear that the claims of voter fraud in his state were widely committed by voters registered to the Republican Party casting illegal ballots for former President Donald Trump.

During the interview, he said:

"The grand irony in all of this, of course, is that the voter fraud that we did have in Pennsylvania was all Republicans voting, having their dead relatives vote for Donald Trump.

"And the bottom line is simply this. And here's another fact is that Republicans that I talk to in Pennsylvaniadon't believe there was any election fraud. I mean, of course, there's a segment of people — if you're already following or listening to a dude that sells pillows on TV, you know, you're kind of beyond reaching. But Republicans don't want to run on this in '22. They may be forced to, but Senator Mastriano is just sending out love letters to the former president in the hopes of getting his endorsement to run. That would be a good thing for Democrats in Pennsylvania because he would get — we'd mop the floor with him."

Despite Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud in the battleground state, the state has only had approximately 10 cases of fraud. According to PoliticusUSA, all of Pennsylvania's cases of voter fraud center around Trump supporters. In fact, Fetterman previously broke down the math via Twitter as he argued that "7M Pennsylvania voters cast their ballots in 2020. The odds of *actual* voter fraud are worse than an actual lottery ticket."