Harrisburg, Pa. ( Associated Press) — Donald Trump endorsed Doug Mastriano for governor in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary on Saturday, alongside a far-right candidate who was out of the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 uprising and vowed to reverse the results. Worked with determination. 2020 presidential election.
Maastriano was leading an already crowded field of contenders, and the former president’s endorsement put him on an even stronger footing in Tuesday’s primary.
But there are growing fears from party leaders that state senator and retired US Army Colonel Maastriano is too much to defeat Democrat Josh Shapiro in November’s general election and could drag other Republicans down into the decisive state. It also includes a US Senate contest in which Trump is trying to lift his supported candidate to victory in a highly competitive race.
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For example, Maastriano has helped spread Trump and his allies’ baseless claims that Democrats fraudulently stole the election for Joe Biden — something that Trump seized on in his support statement.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for the integrity of the election than state Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump wrote. “They have exposed the deceit, corruption and outright theft of the 2020 presidential election, and will do something about it.”
Trump called Maastriano “a fighter like few others, and has been with me from the beginning, and now I have an obligation to be with him.”
In addition to campaigning with key figures in Trump’s circle who have spread lies about the last election, Maastriano also devised a plan for state lawmakers to wipe out that election result and make their own decisions as to which one. The candidate must obtain the electoral votes of the state.
As a result, he was subpoenaed by the US House Committee investigating the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.
Maastriano has said he will take the extraordinary step of requiring voters to “re-register” to vote. “We’re all going to start all over again,” he said during a debate last month.
Such a move is blocked by the National Voter Registration Act and potentially runs into significant protections under the federal – and possibly state – constitution and laws, constitutional law scholars say.
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After the election, Maastriano boasted to supporters in online chats about his frequent interactions with Trump. Maastriano organized bus trips to the US Capitol for Trump’s “Stop the Steel” rally just before the riots, where Maastriano was seen with his wife in footage walking through broken barricades set up by police.
Trump was torn over the endorsement decision in the governor’s race.
Some aides desperately urged him to stay out of the race or support a Maastriano rival, such as Lou Barletta, a former Congressman who was the party’s Trump-backed candidate for the US Senate in 2018.
Maastriano is leading a nine-person field of Republican candidates, with party officials and conservatives believing that votes for more electoral establishment candidates are too divided to close his consolidation of far-right voters.
On Friday, Maastriano told the online “war room” broadcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon that the Republican establishment is “panic, I mean, literally wetting itself” over the prospect that he will be nominated.
In a statement Saturday, Maastriano said he was “honoured” to have Trump’s support and cited the people of Pennsylvania “who want their personal freedoms restored, power returned to the people, and To fulfill the America First – and Pennsylvania First – agenda for their elected leaders.” ,
“Our grassroots supporters in Pennsylvania know that Donald Trump and I will always have his back,” Maastriano wrote. “We are all committed to ending the era of party bosses, black money interest groups and flawed elections.”
Barletta has gathered establishment support, including from members of Congress, over the past few days. He has refrained from criticizing Maastriano by name, except for trying to make the case that he is the most electable candidate in the primary.
On Saturday, he said he could still beat Maastriano.
“I will continue to make this issue before the people that I am the only candidate who can unite the party and bring it to victory in November,” he said. I look forward to supporting President Trump on Wednesday morning,” Barretta wrote.
Trump’s top focus has been the Senate primary in Pennsylvania, where the candidate supporting him, celebrity heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, is seen as weak.
In many cases, Republican voters, conservative activists and pro-Trump hardliners have refused to support Oz simply because Trump does.
Some aides tried to convince the former president that supporting Maastriano would hurt Oz because Maastriano is closely aligned with and campaigned for one of Oz’s rivals, Cathy Barnett.
But as Trump worries about Oz’s prospects, backing Maastriano is seen as a means of protecting his ego, offering a potential victory if Oz loses.
Republicans particularly worry that Maastriano is too toxic to win over moderate voters in the heavily populated suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in November. Critics fear he will put GOP candidates with fewer tickets in danger.
Still, Barretta has acknowledged that there is little in policy difference between him and Maastriano.
Republicans have been kicked out of the governor’s office in Pennsylvania since 2014 under Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, who has been barred from running for reelection.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.