Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano surged to victory over a grab bag of primary challengers Tuesday night to become Pennsylvania Republicans’ candidate for governor.
He’ll face state attorney general Josh Shapiro, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Mastriano, who former president Donald Trump endorsed Saturday, ran for the Republican nomination primarily on a platform of denying Joe Biden’s legitimacy as president. A rabble of primary challengers, including former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta and Trump-era U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bill McSwain, failed to capture voters’ imaginations in the same way.
The Associated Press called the race just before 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday. With an estimated 50 percent of the vote counted, Mastriano led with 42 percent. Runner-up Barletta had 23 percent.
Mastriano is something of a hero among election truthers. He wasn’t just present in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 — he organized a bus caravan to the city and witnessed violence firsthand. A staffer on Mastriano’s campaign got as far as a shattered door on the Capitol’s exterior, NBC News reported Monday, and was later seen laughing as rioters smashed media equipment.
The state senator was subpoenaed by the congressional Jan. 6 Committee in February.
Mastriano was a key election denier from the very beginning: In November 2020, a few days after Election Day, he hosted a makeshift hearing at which Donald Trump complained that no one was willing to “overturn” the election on his behalf. Three days later, Mastriano claimed that “mounting evidence” showed a “compromised” election, and urged the state legislature to appoint Trump the state’s winner and effectively throw out the votes of millions of people.
For months, Mastriano campaigned to hold an Arizona-style election “audit” in Pennsylvania, telling Steve Bannon that Arizona’s disastrous wild goose chase should be a “model” for the rest of the country.
His efforts to undermine Pennsylvanians’ faith in democracy earned Mastriano the favor of the conspiracy theory fever swamps, and the state senator reciprocated the love, at one point speaking at a far-right event at which speakers questioned whether Sept. 11 was a “false flag” and whether Hitler faked his death.
Mastriano has frequently been described as a Christian nationalist: He’s campaigned with far-right Christian groups and opened his run for governor with a shofar blast, an increasingly common occurrence at evangelical political gatherings sometimes used in that context as a theatrical warning to political enemies.
The blast prompted Trump pardon recipient and Mastriano endorser Michael Flynn to comment, “Prayer is the most powerful weapon system known to man.”