HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Republican state senator who has helped spread conspiracy theories about last year’s presidential election and led opposition to pandemic-related shutdowns, vaccine mandates and masking orders is all but officially declaring that he will run for governor.
Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, said in appearances online over the weekend that he has reached the fundraising goal he set to formally become a candidate for governor and is organizing an announcement rally on Jan. 8 near his home in southcentral Pennsylvania.
Mastriano is the third state senator to enter the double-digits-deep Republican field seeking the nomination to potentially succeed outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat. On the Democratic side, second-term state Attorney General Josh Shapiro has effectively cleared the primary field with his candidacy.
Mastriano, 57, has become a one-man force in conservative politics in Pennsylvania, leading anti-mask protests last year, pushing to overturn former President Donald Trump’s reelection loss and showing up outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. That prompted Democrats to call for his resignation, although Mastriano maintains that he did nothing wrong and was not charged.
Mastriano positions himself as an anti-establishment candidate, dismissing politicians as corrupt and belittling many of his fellow Republicans as not conservative enough.
He warned in a Facebook video over the weekend that other Republicans will “lie, cheat and steal” to beat a “people’s governor” and suggested that the other candidates aren’t popular enough to hold a rally to kick off their candidacy.
“Almost all the other 17 or 18 candidates on the Republican side, it’s a press release such as one of the other candidates has done, or another individual spoke with a reporter from one of the liberal rags,” Mastriano told a conservative interviewer online Saturday.
Mastriano was first elected to the Senate in 2019 from a solidly pro-Trump area after retiring as a colonel from the U.S. Army and losing an eight-way primary for an open congressional seat.
Mastriano has long dangled the likelihood that he would run, even saying last May that Trump “asked me to run” for governor.
He has boasted of speaking with Trump at least 15 times and organized an election hearing in Gettysburg that featured Trump’s lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, and a phone call appearance by Trump.
Mastriano in July launched a “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election, mimicking a widely criticized partisan effort in Arizona before he was stripped of his Senate committee chairmanship by a rival for the gubernatorial nomination, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, in a dispute over how to run it.
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