Former President Donald Trump is throwing his support behind state Sen. Doug Mastriano in the race to become the Republican Party’s nominee for Pennsylvania’s governorship.
Trump made the announcement in a statement Saturday morning, writing that Mastriano “has revealed the Deceit, Corruption, and outright Theft of the 2020 Presidential Election, and will do something about it.”
Mastriano, a far-right Republican who has echoed the former president’s debunked conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen through widespread voter fraud, has recently led in the polls in the Republican field for governor.
A poll by the Trafalgar Group released May 9 showed Mastriano with 27.6% of Republican voters' support, followed by Lou Barletta, the GOP's nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and a former congressman known for his crusade against illegal immigration, with 17.6%; Dave White, who runs a large plumbing and HVAC firm and is a former Delaware County councilman, with 15.1%; and Bill McSwain, a lawyer who was the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, with 14.4%.
Of the 1,000 voters polled for that survey, only about 11% remained undecided.
Mastriano first gained a following by leading anti-shutdown rallies during the early months of the pandemic, then became among Trump’s most dedicated supporters during the 2020 campaign.
He worked with Trump to overturn the result and organized bus trips to the U.S. Capitol for Trump’s Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, where he was later seen in footage with his wife passing through breached barricades set up by Capitol Police.
Mastriano also attempted to launch an Arizona-style partisan “audit” of the 2020 election — only to be stripped of his committee chairmanship by state Senate GOP leadership in clash over financing and hiring contractors.
In his endorsement statement, Trump said Mastriano will also “Fight Violent Crime, Strengthen our Borders, Protect Life, Defend our under-siege Second Amendment, and Help our Military and our Vets. 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.”
Mastriano’s ascent, however, has roiled some in the Republican Party who fear he is too conservative for the state electorate and will get “clobbered” by Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro in November’s general election.
As a result, some have coalesced around other candidates.
Jake Corman, another state senator, dropped out of the Republican primary race this week and endorsed Barletta.
Barletta reacted to Trump’s endorsement of Mastriano with his own statement.
“Throughout this campaign I have proved that I’m the best Republican to unite the Republican Party and defeat Josh Shapiro, and I will continue unifying our grassroots conservatives towards our shared goal. I will continue making the case to the people that I am the only candidate who can unite the party and bring victory in November,” Barletta said.
“I look forward to having President Trump’s endorsement Wednesday morning,” Barletta continued, referencing the morning after Tuesday’s primary election.
In the Senate primary, Trump is backing medical doctor and television personality Mehmet Oz.
For all the candidates, issues and important dates that voters should know about in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, go to NBC10's Decision 2022 page. You'll find tools to help you navigate the midterm elections, including when to vote and who will be on your ballots in the primaries and November general elections.