PITTSBURGH — Former President Donald Trump endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s crowded Republican gubernatorial field Saturday, a blow to efforts by some Republicans in the state who recently attempted to consolidate the field around a candidate they believe would fare better in a general election in November.
Mastriano, who is the front-runner in the field just days before Tuesday’s primary, has faced criticism from some Republicans who feel his hard-right platform may help him win the Republican primary by a plurality but then go on to lose the November general election in the purple state.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said. “He has revealed the Deceit, Corruption, and outright Theft of the 2020 Presidential Election, and will do something about it. … 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.”
The endorsement was seen as a hedge, as his selection for the Senate, television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, is in a tight three-way race with businessman David McCormick and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, who surged in polling in the final days of the race.
“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. “They will Fight, they will Win, and they will Produce for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and for the USA itself. I have fully Endorsed Dr. Oz, and now it is my great honor to give my Complete and Total Endorsement to a man who will never let you down, Doug Mastriano for Governor of Pennsylvania!”
But Mastriano and Barnette have endorsed each other and have been running allied campaigns. Mastriano is scheduled to campaign with Barnette in Bucks County Saturday.
Mastriano has faced questions about his attendance at a QAnon-linked event in Gettysburg and at the Washington, D.C., rally that took place before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, though he faces no charges. He has also embraced Trump’s claims the 2020 election was stolen despite officials’ assurances about the security of the vote tabulations.
The last-minute endorsement of Mastriano will likely help propel him to victory in Tuesday’s primary, a blow to efforts by some Republicans to consolidate the field around former Rep. Lou Barletta, viewed as better prepared to defeat state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who has taken aim at Mastriano in recent ads.
Although election analysts predict the 2022 midterm election cycle will favor Republicans due to President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and voter concerns over inflation, Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race is considered a toss-up. Republicans have lost four of the last five gubernatorial races in the state, and its incumbent, Gov. Tom Wolf, who is term-limited, is a Democrat.