PA governor profiles: Shapiro vs. Mastriano

This article is part of a series profiling important races in the upcoming 2022 Pennsylvania elections.

On Nov. 8, residents of the Keystone State will choose between Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano to be their next governor. The two are running to replace Democrat Tom Wolf, who has held the position since 2015.

Josh Shapiro has served as Attorney General of the Commonwealth since 2017. He served on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners from 2011-2017, and prior to that he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 2005-2011. He grew up in Montgomery County, a suburb of Philadelphia, and attended Georgetown University, where he earned his law degree. He ran unopposed in the Democratic primary this year.

According to his campaign website, his platform includes: investing in renewable energy; banning LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace, housing, and banking; banning youth conversion therapy across the state; setting up automatic voter registration and other voting rights protections. He also promises to use his veto power to prevent the Republican-majority House and Senate from passing restrictions on abortion and voting. As attorney general, he has prosecuted companies that committed wage theft, and as governor, he has vowed to protect the right to form unions and veto any anti-union "right-to-work" legislation.

Doug Mastriano is a Pennsylvania State Senator, where he has represented the 33rd district in southern Pennsylvania since 2019. His district is mostly rural, and includes Gettysburg and Chambersburg. Prior to this, in 2018 he ran to represent Pennsylvania's 13th district in the U.S. House of Representatives; however, he failed to earn the Republican nomination. Prior to his political career, he served in the U.S. army for 31 years, retiring at the rank of Colonel. He was deployed during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and served as "the lead planner for the invasion of Iraq via Turkey" following 9/11. He received masters degrees in airpower theory, military operational art and science, and strategic studies. He also received a Ph.D. in history from the University of New Brunswick.

According to his campaign website, his platform includes: eliminating “no-excuse" mail-in voting; passing a universal voter-ID law; ending funding for Planned Parenthood; passing the "Heartbeat Bill" (SB 378), which would ban abortion if a fetal "heartbeat" is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy; banning the use of public benefits for illegal immigrants; prohibiting the teaching of "Critical Race and Gender Theory Studies" in Pennsylvania schools; prohibiting transgender women from using bathrooms that match their gender identity and from competing in girls' sports; encouraging investment in fossil fuels and mining; lowering property taxes and lowering the corporate income tax rate to foster business; and ending vaccine and masking requirements.

In addition to this, he claimed to be opposed to legalizing recreational cannabis, which he believes can increase violent crime. He has argued that "The Constitution was founded on Christian-Judeo ideas, and it's only compatible with that world view," and in reference to Islam, said that "not all religions are created equal." He also argued in favor of deporting "dreamers," undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children, and well as picking undocumented immigrants "up off the roads." He supports a no-exceptions abortion ban, and posits that global warming is a fake science. He believes that gay marriage should not be legal because marriage "was the first institution founded by God in Genesis," and that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt children. With a Republican governor, the majority-Republican state legislature would be able to pass a statewide abortion ban.

Mastriano chartered buses to and attended the "Stop the Steal" rally in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. He was an important political actor in Trump's struggle to overturn the results of the 2020 election. In late November 2020, he appeared on a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, co-founder of the far-right news site Breitbart and former advisor to President Trump, where he described his plan to "take our power back" by introducing a resolution to rescind their certification of the election and appoint new electors to represent PA in the electoral college. Considering that the governor of Pennsylvania gets to select the state Attorney General, who oversees the elections, whichever party wins the governor's race will have immense influence over how the votes are counted in 2024.

Doug Mastriano is running an extremely unorthodox campaign. He is banking on the strength of his base to carry him through the election, making little effort to appeal to political centrists. He has spoken on One America News Network (OANN), a far-right TV news show, but has engaged extremely little with mainstream news sources. He opts instead to use Facebook Live to build a grassroots campaign that relies on his most ardent supporters. Shapiro is also massively outspending Mastriano, committing $16.9 million on TV advertising this fall. Mastriano has spent no money on TV ads and has no plans to do so.

Polls generally favor Shapiro, with a recent CBS-YouGov poll putting him 11 percentage points over Mastriano (55 percent to 44 percent). However, the Trafalgar Group, the only pollster which accurately predicted Trump's victory of Michigan in 2016, puts Shapiro ahead by merely two points (47 percent to 45 percent). This is to say, polling is an inexact science and the race is far from decided.

In addition to the race for governor, Pennsylvanian elections include candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Tartan will be covering these races in upcoming editions.