Pennsylvania governor race divides Republicans, unites Dems

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As Pennsylvania Republicans prepare to choose a nominee for governor, some party officials are twisted in knots over the possibility of a primary victory by a candidate many see as too far too the right to win statewide this fall

Doug Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel and state senator since 2019, has led polls while spending a fraction of the money that some of the other eight candidates listed on the Republican primary ballot have spent.

Democrats, meanwhile, are united behind the state’s two-term elected attorney general, Josh Shapiro. He is uncontested on the primary ballot after wrapping up the endorsement of the state party and its top allies, including the AFL-CIO, and raising more than $20 million since early 2021.

They are vying for the right to succeed Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is constitutionally term-limited after entering office in 2015. The winner is likely to share power with a Republican-led Legislature, where entrenched GOP majorities have controlled the floors for nearly all of the past three decades.

Mastriano has insisted to supporters that he is not a far-right candidate and that his platforms — including eliminating mail-in voting, expanding gun rights, banning abortion and banishing school property taxes — enjoy broad support.

Rather, he says Democrats — including President Joe Biden — are far-left radicals while the Republican “swamp” is trying to defeat him. Shapiro’s campaign, meanwhile, is running a TV ad portraying Mastriano as extreme and saying that if Mastriano wins, “it’s a win for what Donald Trump stands for.”

Mastriano represents a heavily Republican state Senate district based in Franklin County on Pennsylvania’s southern border with Maryland.

Republican voters will see nine names on the ballot for governor, even though two — Jake Corman and Melissa Hart — say they have ended their campaigns and endorsed former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta as part of a last-ditch attempt to help defeat Mastriano.

Barletta has picked up a number of endorsements by current and former Republican officeholders, including members of Congress.

Besides Mastriano, Barletta, Corman and Hart, also on the Republican ballot for governor are: Joe Gale, a Montgomery County commissioner; Charlie Gerow, a marketing consultant and longtime conservative activist; Bill McSwain, a lawyer who was the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Philadelphia; Dave White, who runs a large plumbing and HVAC firm and is a former Delaware County councilman; and Nche Zama, a retired heart surgeon who has directed units at various hospitals in Pennsylvania.

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