By Eric Bradner, CNN
Updated: Wed, 18 May 2022 03:39:46 GMT
Doug Mastriano, a leading voice advancing former President Donald Trump's lies about election fraud, will win the crowded Republican primary for Pennsylvania governor, CNN projects.
Mastriano, a state senator who was endorsed by Trump, is now set to face Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. They are vying to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
The GOP's selection of Mastriano means that if he wins in November, an election denier who attempted to overturn voters' will in the 2020 election would have power over the election machinery in one of the nation's most important battleground states during the 2024 presidential race. In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state -- the person in charge of running Pennsylvania's elections and signing off on its electors.
Mastriano used his victory speech Tuesday night to mock Rachel Levine, the US assistant secretary of health and an admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who is transgender.
The possibility of the far-right Mastriano's nomination had panicked Republicans who fear he'll be rejected by the suburban moderate and independent voters who the party hopes will deliver it control of the House and Senate and wins in a raft of governor's races in November's midterm elections.
Mastriano, whose campaign barred reporters from events in the final days before the primary, was an early supporter of Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election results. He was pictured outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, the day of the insurrection, and attempted to launch an Arizona-style partisan review of Pennsylvania's ballots.
In an endorsement earlier this month, Trump said Mastriano "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."
He also opposes abortion rights -- a high-stakes issue in the Pennsylvania governor's race, with the US Supreme Court potentially poised to overturn Roe v. Wade as soon as next month and Republicans in control of the state's legislature. Mastriano introduced legislation in the state Senate that would make abortion illegal after six weeks.
"Doug Mastriano wants to ban abortion without exceptions, restrict the right to vote and spread conspiracy theories, and destroy the union way of life for hard working Pennsylvanians," Shapiro said in a statement Tuesday. "Mastriano wants to dictate how Pennsylvanians live their lives -- that's not freedom."
In a sign of national GOP strategists and officials' worries about Mastriano, the Republican Governors Association released a tepid statement Tuesday night acknowledging Mastriano's win without congratulating him or committing to engage in the open-seat governor's race in one of the nation's most important swing states.
Instead, RGA Executive Director Dave Rexrode said the organization "remains committed to engaging in competitive gubernatorial contests where our support can have an impact."