On the evening of the primary election, the Democratic nominee for governor Josh Shapiro said of his Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano: “Republicans just nominated a dangerous extremist who wants to take away our freedoms.”

The following day, in a text message to supporters, Shapiro said Mastriano was “anti-democracy.”

If those things are true, does it say something about Shapiro that his campaign purposely boosted Mastriano’s chances of becoming the GOP nominee? How dangerous must one be before the Shapiro campaign would flinch at elevating that person?

Charles C. Cooke at National Review makes the case.

“I do not want to hear a single thing from the Democratic Party about the ‘threat’ that Doug Mastriano presents to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or to the republic in general,” Cooke wrote. “I am, from this moment on, not remotely interested in that case. Why not? Because the Democratic Party clearly doesn’t believe a word of it. When one truly believes that a given candidate is a threat, one doesn’t ‘send out mailers boosting him,’ or spend $840,000 on television advertisements designed to improve his standing.”

The Shapiro campaign did not address the question in a straightforward manner when contacted for comment by Broad + Liberty.

“For weeks before the primary election, both public and private polling indicated that Doug Mastriano was poised to become the Republican nominee, and those predictions were confirmed last night,” said Will Simmons, spokesperson for the Shapiro campaign.

“The contrast in this race could not be more clear — and that’s why our campaign was prepared to start the general election early and make sure Pennsylvanians know Mastriano’s real record,” Simmons added. “Mastriano is a dangerous extremist who wants to criminalize and outlaw abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. He wants to restrict the right to vote and continues to spread conspiracy theories, and he would destroy the union way of life for hard working Pennsylvanians.”

About a week before the primary election, regional and national news outlets highlighted a television ad from the Shapiro campaign that — while running against Mastriano — seemed cleverly worded and positioned to boost Mastriano’s credentials with undecided Republicans.

“Josh Shapiro, the Democratic attorney general of Pennsylvania, is employing a familiar but risky tactic in that state’s governor’s race: He’s paying for a TV ad that appears intended to help one of his opponents in the Republican primary,” the New York Times reported on May 13.

The ad buy from Shaprio was even more important given that the Mastriano campaign had not run much of a television campaign because its budget was much smaller than others.

At least one progressive views it the way Cooke does.

“[T]he ethics are different this time around,” wrote columnist Will Bunch in the Inquirer.

“Mastriano isn’t just a bad candidate (cough, cough Tom Corbett), or even a historically bad one. He is a uniquely dangerous man who — if elected this year in a “wave election” where Republicans win all over the place — would have the legislative support to undo our basic rights and rip the fading fabric of our democracy in the very state where these ideas were forged in 1776 and 1787.”

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.