Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday gave State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) the nod to face state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) in the race for governor this year.
The Democratic Party also nominated Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) for the Senate seat from which Republican Pat Toomey will retire at the end of 2022. At this writing, the GOP primary contest for that seat remains too close to call between top-tier candidates David McCormick and Mehmet Oz.
Republican Carrie DelRosso and Democrat Austin Davis meanwhile clinched nominations for lieutenant governor.
All three primary races were contested between GOP candidates, whereas Shapiro ran unopposed and Fetterman long enjoyed substantial polling leads against U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA-17) and long-shot State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia).
Although the two parties’ state committees usually endorse hopefuls for these offices, Republicans decided against doing so in any of the three this year. Among Democrats’ contested races, their state party only endorsed Davis against State Representative Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia).
Many Republican elected officials and county committees nonetheless weighed in on behalf of gubernatorial candidates, generally splitting between Mastriano’s three most popular rivals: former congressman and former Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, former Delaware County Councilman Dave White, and former federal prosecutor Bill McSwain.
While Mastriano couldn’t boast a similar support base among Keystone State power brokers, he did tout his steadfast alignment with — and eventual endorsement from — former President Donald Trump.
“It’s time for Pennsylvanians to unite, with the support of President Trump, and focus on defeating Josh Shapiro so we can revive our economy, achieve energy independence, lower taxes, restore law and order and reform our failing education system,” the state senator said in a statement. His current vote percentage is 42.48 versus Barletta’s 22.44.
Many right-leaning voices in Pennsylvania and beyond pressed a case against Mastriano that emphasized his reputation for intransigence in a state where an ability to appeal to moderates will be crucial. It remains to be seen whether the party can mend its rifts and unify behind Mastriano to execute a formidable campaign against Shapiro.
Like Mastriano, Oz received Trump’s support for his own bid, though his reputation among the former chief executive’s supporters has been controversial owing to various policy shifts the candidate has made.
Whatever difficulties may or may not lie ahead for Republicans this year, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has registered optimism based on the progress the party has recently made in registering voters. According to the RNC’s communications office, registered Republicans have increased their ranks by 200,000 over the last two years, significantly eroding the Democrats’ registration advantage.
To put GOP affiliation gains in further perspective, Democratic registration beat Republican registration by about 1.2 million voters 10 years ago. Now the gap is just over 550,000.
Tuesday night also settled a number of contentious primary battles for U.S. Congress. In the southeast, Christian Nascimento clinched the Republican nod to challenge U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA-4), trouncing GOP primary opponent Dan Burton; and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick handily shut down fellow Republican Alex Entin’s bid from the congressman’s right. Fitzpatrick will face Democrat Ashley Ehasz in the fall.
In the Chester-County-based 6th district, at this writing, GOP hopeful Guy Ciarrocchi is ahead in a four-way contest for the right to face Democratic incumbent Chrissy Houlihan. Slightly northward, in the Lehigh-Valley-based 7th district, the GOP primary between Kevin Dellicker and Lisa Jane Scheller remains too close to call. The victor will go up against Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Ward.
In the state’s northeastern 8th district, Jim Bognet bested Michael Marsicano for the right to run against vulnerable Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright. In central Pennsylvania’s 10th District, the battle between Democrats Richard Coplen and Shamaine Daniels remains uncertain. The winner will face Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry.
In the Pittsburgh area’s 12th district, Steven Irwin and Summer Lee battle for the top spot in a crowded Democratic field to run against Republican candidate Michael Doyle. In the 17th district slightly northeast, Jeremy Shaffer beat fellow Republicans Jason Killmeyer and Kathleen Coder and thus will face Democrat Christopher Deluzio, who triumphed over Sean Meloy, this fall.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Josh Shapiro” by Governor Tom Wolf. CC BY 2.0. Background Photo “Pennsylvania Capitol” by Kumar Appaiah. CC BY-SA 2.0.