State Sen. Doug Mastriano announced on Facebook Thursday evening that he will not run for the U.S. Senate next year.

His announcement opens the door for Dave McCormick, who said he is seriously considering running for the Senate again. Although he has not yet announced a bid against incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D), many in the Republican Party are urging him to do so. Casey is seeking a fourth term.

McCormick narrowly lost the GOP U.S. Senate primary last year to Dr. Mehmet Oz, who former President Donald Trump endorsed. Oz went on to lose to Democrat John Fetterman.

“Wow,” said GOP strategist and former candidates Charlie Gerow to the news Mastriano’s out. “I’m sure many are breathing a sigh of relief that the road is now cleared for a challenger who can beat Bob Casey. Winning the Senate seat is a top priority for 2024.”

Mastriano said he prayed before making the decision. And he told supporters watching him on Facebook that their Walk as Free People movement is not over. Mastriano and his wife Rebbie promised to hold a conference in the fall to help train future leaders.

And what may be more important, they promised to support the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat.

“We want to be sure we’re supporting that 80 percent person,” said Rebbie Mastriano, echoing remarks by former President Ronald Reagan regarding supporting fellow Republicans. “Somebody does not have to be perfect to have our support,” she said.

“Like Ronald Reagan, we believe our best days are still ahead,” Doug Mastriano said.

Many in the party had asked Mastriano not to run for the U.S., while many of his supporters asked him to.

Mastriano was the Republican nominee for governor in 2022. He lost by 15 percent to now-Gov. Josh Shapiro, whose campaign funding dwarfed Mastriano’s. Shapiro could afford to run relentless advertising dwelling on Mastriano’s strong pro-life views, painting him as a danger to Pennsylvania women.

State Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) tweeted: “Today I’m calling on all level-headed P.A. Republicans to join me in requesting that Doug Mastriano abandon any plans he may have to run for U.S. Senate in 2024. 1/14.”

Many others active in the GOP feared that while Mastriano might once again win a primary, he would hand the Democrats an easy victory in 2024 since he is perceived as out of step with the mainstream, especially on abortion. And with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats have used abortion to beat Republicans, even in races like the recent 163rd state representative seat in Delaware County, where the GOP candidate was pro-choice.

Guy Ciarrocchi, who ran for Congress last year and is now a writer and political strategist, was optimistic.

“Now is the time for Republicans to unite,” said Ciarrocchi. “To find a candidate who will defeat Sen. Casey and be a voice for common sense and focus on the actual problems that affect us every day, that we talk about at the kitchen table. Unify and invite independents and Democrats to join with us for a better future.”

Many believe that candidate is McCormick.

“I thank Doug for his years of military and public service and his dedication to Pennsylvania,” McCormick said when asked to comment Thursday evening. Mastriano spent 30 years in the military, retiring as a colonel.

Dave McCormick

“I am seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate because (Sen.) Bob Casey has consistently made life worse for Pennsylvania families over the past 18 years, and our state deserves better. Casey votes for Biden’s liberal agenda 98 percent of the time; he is openly hostile to our state’s energy industry, endorses dangerous criminals walking freely on our streets, and is enabling open borders, leading to a terrifying rise in fentanyl deaths in Pennsylvania,” McCormick said.

“Throughout my life, I have had the honor to serve and lead, including as a paratrooper in the first Gulf War and later while creating hundreds of jobs in Western Pennsylvania. We need a Republican nominee who can build a broad coalition of Pennsylvanians to defeat Bob Casey and improve the lives of Pennsylvania families,” McCormick added.

McCormick recently published a book, “Superpower in Peril,” and has been traveling the state discussing it.