If God wants state Sen. Doug Mastriano to run for U.S. Senate, He hasn’t told the leadership of the Republican party.
Last week, Politico reported Mastriano — crushed by nearly 15 points in last year’s governor’s race against then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro – is considering a challenge to Democrat Bob Casey in 2024. He’s “praying” about it, Mastriano told the magazine. After God, his wife, Rebbie, will have the final word he said.
But National Republican Senate Committee Chair Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who is in charge of the group’s candidate recruitment, already has a word or two on the subject: No way.
“We need somebody who can win a primary and a general election. His last race demonstrated he couldn’t win a general,” Daines tweeted.
He is not alone. “Mastriano running for any statewide office would be another big gift to Pennsylvania Democrats,” said Christopher Nicholas with Eagle Consulting Group.
Mastriano ran as a solidly MAGA candidate with hardline views on social issues like abortion in the relatively purple state of Pennsylvania. He lost the money race, raising just $7 million compared to Shapiro’s $73 million.
Pennsylvania Republicans told DVJournal they were not interested in a repeat performance.
Republican insiders are already looking to former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick in 2024.
“I think [Mastriano] has little to no chance of defeating David McCormick in a primary,” said Jeff Jubelirer with Bellevue Communications. “McCormick came within a whisker of defeating Dr. Oz in the GOP U.S. Senate primary in 2022, and many observers believed he would have fared better, and perhaps even beat, John Fetterman in the general election.
Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications who also ran in the GOP gubernatorial primary, said Mastriano would have to give up his state Senate seat or run for both offices at once.
“I think his constituents would not be happy with that,” said Gerow. “A lot of people are talking about running for the U.S. Senate. He took a lot of time away (from his state Senate job) to run for governor.”
And, Republicans say, defeating an incumbent like Casey won’t be easy.
“Perhaps if Donald Trump injects himself again in the Senate race, it could benefit Mastriano a little [in the primary], but it didn’t help him make a dent when he ran against Josh Shapiro for governor,” Jubelirer said.
“I think the Republicans would prefer a stronger candidate, especially after taking it on the chin statewide in 2022.”
With the Pennsylvania Republican Party paying a D.C. firm a reported $100,000 to study why Republicans here lost so badly in the 2022 midterms, the Delaware Valley Journal asked some politically savvy people for their opinions about what went wrong.
Our pundits believe that there is plenty of blame to go around.
Like many in PA politics who spoke to DVJournal, Delaware County GOP Chair Frank Agovino had two names on his list of challenges for Republicans last year: Mastriano and Dobbs.
“It seems to me that 2022 was more about the inability for Republicans to coalesce around an electable gubernatorial candidate,” Agovino said, a reference to Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin). “And the surprise of younger voters taking the bait laid by Democrats painting Republicans as extreme on abortion. If the study doesn’t grapple with these fatal flaws, it won’t be worth the paper it’s written on,” said Agovino. Dobbs was the U.S. Supreme Court decision issued last year that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Liz Preate Havey, chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee. also used the “E” word to analyze her party’s failures.
“The Democrats were successful in convincing a majority of voters that our candidates were extreme,” she said. “And clearly, the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade was much more of a motivator for pro-choice voters than Republicans anticipated. Those things, along with no significant statewide mail-in ballot push by Republicans or conservative groups, put our candidates at a disadvantage.”
Guy Ciarrocchi, the former president of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce who ran for Congress in 2022, said, “Biden and the Democrats’ priorities caused obvious failures—from inflation to broken supply chains, more violent crimes, parents’ roles being undercut by school boards and an unsecured border. Yet, Republicans underperformed nationally. In Pennsylvania, it was a train wreck, with the highest ‘casualties’ in the suburbs.
“Independent voters either didn’t blame the Democrats for this mess, didn’t see these problems as their top priorities, or they didn’t trust Republicans to fix the mess—or, a bit of everything. It’s imperative that we find out what went wrong—especially in the suburbs. Far more important than reviving the GOP, our quality of life and our nation’s future depend on our connecting with these Independent voters and growing our base,” Ciarrocchi said.
In an interview with radio talk host Dom Giordano, Mastriano offered his own take on what went wrong. Not surprisingly, he argued that his campaign was a relative success. Instead, he said Democratic advantages in fundraising and mail-in voting doomed him from the start.
He pointed out that Democrat Josh Shapiro had raised $75 million and spent $70 million while the Republican National Committee and Republican Governor’s Association “walked away,” leaving him with only the money he could raise on his own so he was not able to get his message out.
“Every week there was another $1 million anti-Doug ad,” Mastriano said.
He also said that the GOP must embrace mail-in voting and believes that was also key in the Democrats’ wins.
“We set a record,” said Mastriano. “Over 2.2 million votes for Mastriano, 90 percent on Election Day…This is more votes than a Republican governor candidate received since 1962, William Scranton. (It was) the second highest in our state history. The grassroots did fantastic. We won on Election Day in-person voting but we were killed, slaughtered by no-excuse, mail-in voting.”
Republican consultant Charlie O’Neill wasn’t quite as forgiving.
“Ultimately, Pennsylvania electoral woes in 2022 boil down to Doug Mastriano’s inability to run an effective campaign. Candidates matter, and while Mastriano ran away with the primary, he was no match in the general elections. The best thing Republicans in Pennsylvania can do is take candidate recruitment and vetting more seriously, along with engaging local leaders on the kinds of candidates who play in their areas. The electorate, right, left, and center is showing they want competent, serious candidates who have a plan to lead. We have leaders and activists who fit that bill. We need to get them to run.”
Commonwealth Partners President & & CEO Matt Brouillette said, “The misses of the last election stem from three major flaws: Poor candidates, poorly delivered messages, and poorly run campaigns. In our statewide races, Republicans put up weak candidates against established candidates with exceptional fundraising prowess and years of campaigning behind them.
“GOP candidates criticized what they opposed but failed to present a vision of what a better future looks like,” said Brouillette. “And Republican campaigns ignored basic tenets of winning, including shoring up their base and reaching out to swing voters. Combine this with massive outspending by the Left (with massive infusions of political cash from outside Pennsylvania) and a refusal by Republicans to embrace mail-in voting (which gave Democrats a 50-day voting window versus the Republicans’ 13 hours on Election Day)—and the recipe for Republican failure was nearly foolproof.”
“Generally speaking, the Dobbs (abortion) decision changed the calculus for many voters, particularly those in the suburbs. That decision, coupled with a historically weak gubernatorial candidate, spelled some trouble for Republicans. They still won the congressional vote, but these two factors had a major impact on the state house races,” said Berwood A. Yost, director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy and the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College.
Republican political consultant Albert Eisenberg with BlueStateRed said, “Voters saw a national ticket affiliated with former President Trump, who hasn’t ‘won’ since he was elected in 2016 and has at every turn mobilized opposition more than he’s generated support. In Pennsylvania, we had a ticket led by a messianic who went out of his way to alienate moderate voters and a Senate candidate who had substance and quality but was unfortunately perceived as a carpet-bagger and did little to respond to that attack even when his radical opponent was hamstrung by health issues.”
But for longtime centrist Republican John Featherman, who ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 2011, “all roads lead to Doug Mastriano.”
“And the state GOP’s decision to rubber stamp Mastriano’s campaign – and his extreme views – rather than to endorse any of his primary race opponents, put the nail in the coffin for failed U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Oz and countless Republicans running for reelection to the Pennsylvania state House. Mastriano’s conscious decision to focus his campaign on contentious issues like restricting abortion and repealing LGBTQ rights backfired, not just for his campaign but for the GOP to retain power in the state House.
“Moving forward, the only way for the Pennsylvania GOP to succeed will be to market a less combative agenda and embrace a comprehensive mail-in voter strategy – the same strategy which ultimately pushed Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman over the top in their respective elections,” said Featherman.
Last week’s anticipated Red Wave wasn’t even a Red Puddle, and it could be argued, Pennsylvania was the GOP’s biggest disappointment of them all.
Pennsylvania Republicans didn’t flip a single seat in Congress, they lost a U.S. Senate seat, weren’t competitive in the governor’s race, and even handed over control of the state House of Representatives. All this at a time when Democrats were defending an unpopular president and a struggling economy.
I have three major reasons for the losses here in Pennsylvania and some solutions Republicans must adopt.
The first reason is spelled out in just two words: Doug Mastriano. Mastriano lost so badly that if you removed Philadelphia and Pittsburgh from the voting, Democrat Attorney General Josh Shapiro still beat him by 195,000 votes. How is that even possible?
In Lancaster County, Republican registered voters outnumber Democrats by 64,453. And yet Mastriano only beat Shapiro by 4,399, the smallest margin of any Republican gubernatorial nominee in modern history. Even Scott Wagner, the previous Republican nominee who got drubbed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D), won the county by a 6,189 margin.
In Bucks County around 40,000 fewer voters supported Mastriano than voted for winning Republican candidate Brian Fitzpatrick.
I got the first area radio or TV interview with Mastriano and eventually interviewed him five times during this election cycle. I liked the style of debate he proposed with Shapiro, in which each side would pick a moderator for each debate and basically allow the candidates to debate without the usual rules.
However, I had to beg Mastriano to bring his campaign to our area. It was also clear to me that there was no infrastructure to take on a force like Shapiro. When Mastriano announced he would not support any exceptions to a total ban on abortions in Pennsylvania, I knew any hope of a victory was dead, and I said so at the time.
No one will win a race for statewide office in Pennsylvania demanding a ban on all abortions without exception. Dave White, a candidate for governor who lost to Mastriano and someone I saw as a potential bridge to moderate Democrats, also says no exceptions should be allowed under an abortion ban.
If he maintains that position, he cannot win statewide.
The solution to the Mastriano problem is for the Republican State Committee to endorse candidates for statewide offices. That does not mean we can’t still have open primaries. But an endorsement and discussion might give the public more information and dissuade some candidates from staying in the race.
Pennsylvania Republicans should take a page from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) who allows for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother under any abortion laws, and also move toward supporting a time limit on how many weeks an abortion can be performed within and be legal.
DeSantis might offer an antidote to the second major reason for Republican losses: President Donald Trump. What do Mastriano, Dr. Oz, Don Bolduc, Blake Masters, and Herschel Walker have in common? They all came in second last Tuesday, and they were all boosted by Trump. At a critical phase of the election, Trump inserted himself in our races and allowed Democrats to run against him. It worked.
DeSantis has gained tremendous traction against Trump due to his stunning victory in Florida. I’m not adverse to the two of them squaring off in the 2024 presidential primaries.
Finally, mail-in ballot issues are a major problem in Pennsylvania. I think Republicans have done a pretty good job in the last two years of stopping Democrats from exploiting flaws in the system around things like drop-box security, undated ballots, and counting procedures. However, they have given up the advantages of early voting entirely to the Democrats. Historically Republicans were at least as likely to vote by absentee as Democrats. It allows the parties to “bank” votes and focus their GOTV efforts on others.
In the Trump era, Republicans were attacking the idea of early voting — and now are paying the price for it. I think they have to do better to get more of their vote to effectively use mail-in balloting.
The reforms I’ve suggested are not monumentally hard to put into place. The first step is to acknowledge that these are significant issues. I don’t think abortion be the top issue in 2024, but again no statewide candidate will win if they don’t follow my method of addressing the issue.
In Philadelphia, carjackings have doubled this year from the previous year, with more than 1,000 so far. Delaware County does not keep statistics on that crime, said a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
Crime is an issue in many political races this year, as it has spiked in cities helmed by progressive prosecutors like Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Krasner has been under investigation by a state House bipartisan committee for his prosecution or lack of prosecution of repeat offenders. The committee, which may or may not ultimately recommend the House impeach Krasner, issued a report this week.
The pro-law enforcement mantle has been claimed by all four candidates at the top of the ticket. U.S. Senate candidates Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz and Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman both claim to support the police. They are currently airing dueling commercials with Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny supporting Fetterman and Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran backing Oz. Oz has also garnered endorsements from many other law enforcement organizations, including the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association and the state FOP, as well as the Philadelphia FOP.
Oz even received the endorsement of the FOP that represents the Braddock police, the town where Fetterman served as mayor and where he claimed to be tough on crime.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, takes a tough-on-crime stance, saying he will keep violent criminals behind bars and make sure that municipal police departments receive adequate funding.
Scanlon declined to comment about crime in her district. Her Republican opponent, David Galluch, has been outspoken.
“Congresswoman Scanlon has marched with Defund the Police. She has endorsed out-of-the-mainstream policies like the elimination of cash bail. She has stood alongside and refused to condemn Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner for his approach on the non-prosecution of repeat and violent offenders. It should come as no surprise that as a result, crime is on the rise in PA-05. In fact, every year since Mary Gay Scanlon has been in office, Philadelphia and Delaware County’s largest municipality, Upper Darby, have set murder records,” Galluch said.
“I’m committed to doing what Congressman Scanlon hasn’t done — delivering on enhancements to public safety through supporting and funding our police, investing in technology to help us catch offenders and get them off the street — but perhaps most importantly — using my office as a bully pulpit to demand that commonsense laws are enforced and that there is accountability for lawbreakers.”
For Bucks County parents Megan Brock and Jamie Cohen Walker, Tuesday’s state Senate committee hearing on parent’s rights was not an abstract political conversation. It was about real life for their kids, who had been locked out of classrooms during the COVID-19 crisis under false pretenses.
Brock and Walker were part of a parent-led effort to force Bucks County into revealing why it ignored the recommendations of its own county Health Director Dr. David Damsker who recommended in-person learning. Emails overriding his decision were authored by a Democratic operative with “no training or experience in public health” rather than Damsker, Brock said.
“Instead of answering our questions, our Bucks County commissioners used their positions to call us liars, conspiracy theorists, and accuse us of playing politics,” said Brock. “If that wasn’t bad enough, after we won access to public records through the appeals process in Harrisburg, Bucks County commissioners refused to comply. Instead (they) filed a total of five lawsuits. Five.
“They are using taxpayer dollars to sue us so they can publicly withhold records, which they have been ordered to provide. We are being abused by our government for simply being concerned parents who asked questions.”
They were at the hearing for Senate Bill 996, sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), which would have Pennsylvania join 15 other states in establishing a parents’ bill of rights.
Alex Nester of Parents Defending Education spoke about the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District court case that revealed the content of Critical Race Theory (CRT) training given to teachers. The district had told parents they “did not have a right to review” that material.
“Parents know what’s best for their children,” Nester said. “It is both their right and responsibility to care for them.”
Committee minority chair Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) called the hearing “a clown show” and one-sided, alleging Democrats weren’t allowed to call witnesses. Committee chair Sen. David Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill) responded that Democrats were asked if they wanted witnesses but did not respond.
Street said when the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision integrated public schools, many White parents did not want their children going to school with Black children. Studies showed that Black children had lower self-esteem because of discrimination.
The proposed law “does more bad than good and should not move forward,” Street said.
“Parental rights are still under attack in Pennsylvania,” Brock said during her testimony. Two weeks ago, the ACLU filed a federal complaint against Central Bucks School District alleging discrimination against LGBQ students because the district instructed teachers to obtain parental consent before using students’ preferred pronouns. Some teachers say they will not comply and will keep hiding student information from parents.
“I’ve always taught my children to never to keep secrets from me,” she said. Keeping secrets from parents is a warning sign of grooming by sexual abusers, she claimed. “This is dangerous, and it needs to be stopped.”
The ACLU argues for teachers to use gender-affirming care without knowing if children are being treated for sexual dysphoria. And psychiatrists say 70 percent of gender dysphoria resolves by the end of adolescence, she said.
“As a mother I find it extremely alarming that our attorney general, Josh Shapiro, wants to ban children suffering from gender dysphoria from receiving any alternative treatment other than gender-affirming care. How can anyone force parents to a care model that gives children highly invasive, irreversible, fertility-ending treatment when there are less invasive options? It is truly the ultimate attack on parental rights.”
Malvern mother Fenicia Redman spoke about obscene books at the Great Valley High School. In August Redman filed a federal lawsuit to get those books out of school libraries. The obscene books, including “Gender Queer,” “Fun House” and “Lawn Boy,” are available in school libraries throughout the state.
Redman also took posters with enlarged pictures from the books to the state capitol to protest. While there, a capitol police officer told her to put some of them away since children might see them, she said.
She read federal statutes that say distribution of pictures of children performing sex acts is illegal and sections from the book “Push” that was extremely graphic description of incest until committee chair Sen. David Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill) told her they heard enough.
Argall said his father had been a school librarian.
“I can’t imagine in any way he’d allow those books in the school library,” he said.
Pediatrician Dr. Chaminie Wheeler spoke about parents bonding with their babies. She told the committee it is normal for adolescents to question their identities.
“Who loves that child more? Their parents or their teachers?” Wheeler asked. The state Department of Education is coming between the relationship of parents and children, she said.
Questioned by Street about curriculum to prevent bullying, Wheeler said it was better to focus on people’s similarities rather than on their differences.
Mastriano thanked those who testified for “for your courage standing against powerful forces, even the government.”
“Speaking truth to power. That’s what we heard here today,” said Mastriano. “We’re in an environment where evil is called good and good is called evil. Where it seems like parents are co-parenting with the government and that’s just not the way it should be…Now, more than ever, it’s important that citizens rise up and stand for their children and their families.”
The Josh Shapiro gubernatorial campaign released a statement calling the hearings a “waste of time and taxpayers’ dollars.”
Brock and Walker said they have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars fighting for parents’ rights. For that, they have been labeled “domestic terrorists” and called “libelous” names in newspapers.
“It should not be this hard,” said Brock. “It should not take this much effort for parents to exercise their fundamental right of being their child’s advocate, protector, counselor and provider.”
Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano unloaded both barrels on his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, over soaring crime in the Keystone State.
“On his watch as the senior law enforcement official in the state, crime has gone up 40 percent, that alone is disqualifying,” he told some 700 people at the Fuge in Warminster on Saturday afternoon. “He doesn’t want to talk about 1,000 or more carjackings in Philadelphia, a record number of homicides…and he is a complete, utter, and ridiculous failure.”
They can’t keep up (with digging) the graves with the young people killed in the crossfire, mostly 15, 18-year-old kids,” Mastriano said.
Participants chanted “Doug for Guv.” Mastriano spoke without notes for about 45 minutes, making his case for why voters should elect him governor.
A 30-year Army veteran, he repeated the classic quote, “Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.”
“There’s no time for us to fade away,” he said. “Our country needs every one of us.”
Mastriano said he has offered to debate Shapiro and would allow him to “bring Donna Brazile,” but “he’s chicken.”
Shapiro has turned his back on “mostly women” who are being sex trafficked in the state, Mastriano charged. Instead, Shapiro sued the Little Sisters of the Poor, spending millions in taxpayers’ money to lose in the U.S. Supreme Court, and sued to keep kids in masks and businesses shut down. On his watch, nearly 10,000 criminals were released from jail.
Mastriano promised, “On day one, woke is broke.”
“Parents will have their powers back,” he continued. “There will be full school transparency…all the pornographic books will be pulled out. On day one and done, Critical Race Theory will be thrown out the window. And maybe bring back civics, the constitution, and Pennsylvania history.”
Mastriano said he was being attacked as not supporting women’s rights and called on his wife, Rebbie, to speak.
Sen. Doug Mastriano and his wife, Rebbie. (Courtesy Tom Sofield, editor/publisher Levittown/Now.com)
She said Republicans support a woman’s right to be born, to have baby formula, to have a say in her child’s education, raise a child in “a safe community where the government enforces the law, prosecutes crime, and doesn’t let criminals out early.”
“And we believe, as Pennsylvanians, that it’s a woman’s right to the Second Amendment,” she added, drawing loud cheers and applause.
“And we believe it’s a woman’s right to compete in sports that are not dominated by men,” said Rebbie, who also serves as Mastriano’s campaign manager. “They’re trying to cancel us. I know each and every one of you can define a woman and tell some of those in your neighborhood what a woman is. Ladies, we’re going to get out that vote like you’ve never seen before.”
Mastriano said boys in girls’ bathrooms threaten public safety. He backed a bill to ensure only girls and women play women’s sports. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoed that bill, and Shapiro filed an amicus brief opposing Virginia’s efforts to keep boys out of girls’ restrooms and locker rooms.
While the Republican nominee trails in the polls, he told the crowd he is waging a grassroots campaign. Since the primary, he has been to all 67 counties, with Bucks, one of the original counties founded by William Penn, as the last.
Mastriano recalled Washington’s “daring raid” crossing the Delaware River from Bucks County to New Jersey, changing the course of the Revolutionary War. He told his supporters they would do the same and “beat back the Democrats and that far, extreme radial, dangerous policy vision they have for our state and nation. We just say no to Shapiro.”
“The Democrats haven’t changed much,” he said. “They don’t have an argument to stand on, so they call names.”
The Democrats are lying and “fearmongering,” he said. “It’s time to take the state back.”
The Democrats have a “laundry list” of things they do not want to talk about, like shutting down small businesses during COVID and the state deciding which could stay open.
“All the cabinet makers across Pennsylvania were shut down, except one. Wolf Industries,” he said. “You could go to strip clubs but not churches. Life under (Health Secretary Rachel) Levine and life under Shapiro.”
“I was in Germany behind the Iron Curtain in 1989 during the Cold War defending us from what the radical left is planning here,” he said. “The godlessness, the evil empire…The fight for freedom is still ongoing for our country, so our job is not done.”
“For our kids and grandkids, we have to win on the 8th of November,” he said. “Our motto is freedom.”
Conservative writer and commentator Jack Posobiec also spoke, saying he grew up in Norristown. He said when drugs flooded that small city, Shapiro was a Montgomery County commissioner and did nothing to help. Norristown has gotten so bad that Posobiec said he has never taken his two sons to see the street he grew up on.
“This (Democratic) cabal took from us, they took from our families, they want to destroy our families,” he said. “The only thing they care about is power.”
Mastriano’s message resonated with Eileen Storch of Newtown. She opposes boys in girls’ restrooms and biological boys competing in girls’ sports.
“That’s wrong,” she said.
David Fiori, Jr. of Yardley said Mastriano “makes a lot of good sense. He’s applying common sense to politics. He has great leadership skills. He relates to everybody. He understands what the stakes are, and he’s not afraid to face the issues of the day.”
A Montgomery Township woman who did not want to give her name said she supports Mastriano because of “schools, taxes, and the economy.”
Mastriano said he had spoken to 500 people in Chester County earlier in the day and had a second event with Gun Owners of America in Bucks County following the Fuge rally. Reports of the “early demise” of his campaign were utterly wrong, he said.
Despite offers to debate from the Republican candidates running for governor and U.S. senator, their Democratic opponents have yet to accept the challenge.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, offered to debate Attorney General Josh Shapiro twice in October, with the venues and dates to be determined by the candidates. Mastriano’s one mandate is that he wants the campaigns to run the debates, not the media.
“As expected, Josh Shapiro doesn’t have the guts to debate Sen. Mastriano without cover from his protectors in the mainstream media,” said a Mastriano campaign spokesperson. “Given the opportunity to meet Sen. Mastriano face to face in a neutral venue with each campaign receiving the exact same terms, Josh made clear that he only wants to debate Sen. Mastriano if the moderators, venue, and on-site media are carefully tailored to give him an artificial advantage.”
Shapiro’s campaign spokesman Will Simons dismissed Mastriano’s proposal. “Doug Mastriano’s unserious proposal is an obvious stunt to avoid any real questions about his extreme agenda and record of conduct by dictating his own rules for debates. Mastriano has spent his entire campaign refusing to answer questions from local outlets across Pennsylvania–refusing to leave his echo chamber of extremists on alt-right media.
“In Pennsylvania, there is a long history of media outlets and independent moderators asking candidates of both parties fair, direct questions about their track records and plans if elected–nobody gets to pick their own moderators or set their own terms.
“It’s unfortunate that Doug Mastriano has recklessly decided to blow up good faith debate negotiations with media outlets across the commonwealth. If he’s ever ready to step up and finally answer questions about his reckless agenda, we look forward to comparing Josh Shapiro’s long record of bringing people together and delivering results for Pennsylvanians with Mastriano’s record of dangerous extremism,” Simons said.
Similarly, Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz is decrying Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s failure to agree to debates. Oz has offered to debate Fetterman five times.
“Doctor Oz has agreed to five debates. John Fetterman has agreed to zero debates. If John is too sick to debate and is concerned he cannot stand in front of cameras for more than 10 minutes, then he should just say so. We’re sure voters would understand and so would we. Otherwise, he should pick some of the many debates Doctor Oz has agreed to or explain why he won’t agree to debate on KDKA on September 6,” said Oz campaign communications director Brittany Yanick.
Fetterman’s campaign did not respond when asked to comment about whether he plans to debate Oz.
Both Democrats are leading in recent polls and also have larger campaign coffers. A recent Trafalgar Group poll has Fetterman at 48.4 and Oz at 43.5 percent. It also puts Shapiro at 48.6 with Mastriano trailing at 44.7.
The Emerson College Poll showed Fetterman leading Oz by four points and Shapiro over Mastriano by three. But the Franklin & Marshall poll showed the Democrats winning by wide margins, with Shapiro at 44 percent to Mastriano’s 33 percent and Fetterman at 43 percent to Oz’s 30 percent.
But debates could be game changers.
Christopher P. Borick, professor of political science and director, Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, said it is not unusual for a frontrunner to spurn debates.
“As for debates, it is a long-established strategy for frontrunners to try and minimize or even forego debates,” said Borick. “The status quo benefits those who are in front, so why give your opponent opportunities to score hits. Of course, those trailing will ask for more debates and use the reluctance of the frontrunner to engage to score a few points. In 2022 this dance is playing out with the GOP candidates looking for opportunities to gain ground and the Democrats not eager to provide those chances.”
The two Republican contenders may also get a boost from a rally with former President Donald Trump planned for Sept. 3 in Wilkes-Barre. Trump endorsed both candidates.
Empty pantries. Unfilled medications. Depleted savings. I recently poured over hundreds of comments like these from my constituents regarding the issue concerning them most: the growing toll inflation takes on their survival.
Of the roughly 650 people who responded to my poll, 92 percent said they are worse off today than they were last year. Another 95 percent said they feel the pain of inflation at the gas pump and the grocery store. Many told me the cost to fill their tank has tripled, while electric bills and food purchases have risen by hundreds of dollars each month.
Others say they’ve dipped into savings and delayed retirement just to handle the worsening economic situation. Parents forgo new clothing and school supplies as their children embark on another academic year, elderly and disabled residents on fixed incomes fret over property tax hikes, small business owners watch sales plummet and income halved, while others consider fleeing Pennsylvania altogether.
This widespread suffering weighs on my mind every day and the responsibility I bear to fix it grows heavier by the minute. I wish I could say the same for my colleagues across the aisle, spurred on by a feckless gubernatorial administration only interested in throwing money at our problems in hopes they’ll just disappear.
Ordinary Pennsylvanians know this tactic only makes things worse. There’s no such thing as free money, especially when it’s our hard-earned dollars the state is using to appease Gov. Tom Wolf’s progressive allies. It’s the same pattern we see at the congressional level, where President Joe Biden just signed the Inflation Reduction Act – a misnomer, at best, to distract from the billions in handouts it awards to green energy.
Even the nonpartisan Congressional Office of the Budget admits the legislation will increase taxes on the middle class – those making under $400,000 annually – by $20 billion over the next decade. This, on top of the $410 million carbon tax the Wolf administration is fighting tooth and nail to impose on electricity ratepayers through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
A bipartisan mix of lawmakers opposes RGGI because it could nearly quadruple energy costs by 2030 with virtually zero reduction in carbon emissions. It threatens tens of thousands of jobs and punishes millions of residents unable to afford greener options, like electric heat pumps and solar panels.
My constituents tell me their electricity bills have already inflated by hundreds of dollars each month, leaving them with difficult choices to make about which bills get paid. If the Senate Republicans’ legal challenge to stop RGGI once and for all fails, these costs will skyrocket even more.
But Wolf’s policies don’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, the Biden administration’s ruinous strategies amplify the struggle we all face just to drive to work and keep our lights on. From restrictive gas drilling regulations to the billions in aid we funnel to Ukraine to defeat a war against Russia, we swear we aren’t fighting, both Democratic leaders believe the middle class should fund their self-serving ambitions.
That’s why I sponsored Senate Bill 813 to temporarily institute a gas tax holiday that would shave 15 cents off the price per gallon for six months. The legislation also implements registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles to offset the lost revenue from the tax cut to maintain funding for roads and bridges.
We know, however, that energy is just one facet of this spiraling economic crisis. Local governments often lean on property taxes to fill widening budget gaps, a strategy that hits residents surviving on fixed incomes the hardest. With more than 2.2 million seniors living in Pennsylvania, this hardship isn’t limited to my district alone.
Eliminating property taxes for residents 65 and older could benefit as many as 176,000 seniors currently living below the poverty line. Legislation I introduced last year would extend this relief to elderly residents who’ve lived in Pennsylvania for ten years or longer and make less than $40,000 annually.
Our seniors have spent decades working and contributing taxes to our state. They shouldn’t fear losing their homes because of the inflationary spiral that’s wreaking havoc on our lives.
I’m not the only one taking action to quell this disaster. My Republican colleagues and I have likewise championed legislation to lower taxes on businesses, which will translate into wage growth and economic prosperity.
We’ve dismissed the governor’s proposals to increase personal income taxes, collect higher fees from oil and gas operators and drain our state’s savings account. We’ve sued to block his onerous regulations meant to punish industry and raise prices for all. We’ve asked voters to step in and tell us where they stand on our most fundamental issues, rather than letting the administration dictate to us what they think is best.
In that vein, I’ll conclude with just a handful of the hundreds of comments I’ve received from my constituents about the hardships they face. Don’t just take my word for it:
“I have to watch every penny and try to budget even further in the event that inflation gets worse so my family will still be able to afford to pay bills, buy food, and gasoline so I can get to work. It’s scary and frustrating. ”
“HARD decisions have to be made. Pay health insurance or the utility bills? HAVE to go to work, HAVE to use gas, how is anyone coming out ahead? We were barely making even BEFORE inflation hit.”
“I don’t fill my tank up all the way. I put enough in to get me 2 to 3 days. I can’t afford my co-pays to go to [the] doctor. Even when I work 30 hours OT in 2 weeks.”
“We are on SS and it is almost impossible to make our money take us till the next month. With all the bills going higher, but our checks do not get any higher. We have to make choices if we should pay rent, or go to the doctor and pay the copays, or pay the bills, or get medication, or eat, or use the gas to do any of the above.”
“We have several kids [and] it’s very hard to even have all the essentials now. It is very hard to have food for all my kids all the time. And gas is so expensive to even go to work. Basically working to pay for gas and food. No money for anything else.”
“Inflation has caused me to put my business up for sale due to a drastic drop in sales. Only form of income so barely getting buy and hoping for the best.”
“All of our utilities are behind or in shut off status. We have been late on our house payment the last few months. We basically go to work and back home because we are trying to conserve what gas we have. Everything has gone up, but our wages.”
“Barely keeping our head above water. Depending on the outcome of the midterms, we may have to leave the country. Things are completely out of control.”
“We can’t save for a new house due to everything else increasing. My husband drives a truck and his fuel prices have almost tripled! We need your help!”
“The prices of everything are so high we have to sacrifice a lot of things just to eat and provide electric in my household. Whoever reads this please help!”
The hiring of a state therapist with controversial views about adults who sexually abuse children is drawing the ire of a leading GOP candidate and official.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor, sent a letter asking why the Department of Corrections hired a therapist who opposes using the word “pedophile” for convicted sex offenders who prey on children.
In a letter to acting Secretary of the Department of Corrections George Little, Mastriano demanded the department fire Miranda Galbreath.
Mastriano wrote, “To say I am disturbed would be an understatement. Galbreath makes some indefensible claims during the 10-plus minute video that attempts to destigmatize adults who sexually abuse children as misunderstood and vilified.
“She argues the term ‘pedophile’ is ‘a judgmental, hurtful insult’ meant to slander ‘minor-attracted persons,’ who – not unlike heterosexual and homosexual adults – don’t get to choose their sexual preferences. She has the nerve to suggest using the word ‘pedophile … causes harm’ to those convicted of sexual crimes against children. This revolting rhetoric prioritizes the humanity of child abusers over the protection and healing of their victims.”
“Galbreath’s reprehensible views have no place in our state prisons, let alone our society. I demand her professional relationship with our state end immediately and request a response regarding her involvement in counseling inmates at state correctional institutions and the extent to which this extremist ideology has infiltrated the department.”
Galbreath of Erie, who could not immediately be reached for comment, locked the videos from YouTube that Mastriano linked to in his Senate newsletter. However, his office provided a link.
Mike McDonnell, the spokesperson for the Pennsylvania chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), opposes softening the language to protect the feelings of convicted pedophiles.
“The perpetrators who commit these crimes chose the attraction, and children were their target,” said McDonnell. “Any other term used is minimizing the crime and once again slaps the face of innocence. This appears to be an attempt to tidy up the word pedophile. It is not a natural sex preference, and there is no scientific tool known to predict or diagnose pedophilia or hebephilia. We have a large concern about what this therapist, working directly with offenders, is really coaching. Let the offenders discern who was truly harmed.”
Mastriano said, “Galbreath has the nerve to suggest using the word ‘pedophile … causes harm’ to those convicted of sexual crimes against children. This revolting rhetoric prioritizes the humanity of child abusers over the protection and healing of their victims. The department must address this now.”
Veteran Republican state Sen. Bob Mensch has spent the past four years watching Lt. Gov. John Fetterman preside over the legislature’s upper chamber, and he can summarize his take in one word.
During a recent DVJournal podcast, the Delaware Valley Republican, who is retiring from office, offered his take on the races for governor and U.S. Senate, as well as the contest to fill his District 24 seat. And he concedes the Trump brand of GOP politics espoused by fellow state Sen. Doug Mastriano isn’t a good fit for the region.
“Some of the policies that have been espoused by the [Mastriano] campaign don’t line up as well in the southeast as in the rest of the state,” Mensch said of the GOP nominee for governor.
Mensch said candidates for statewide office need Democrat and independent voters as well as Republicans to win. Former Gov. Ed Rendell “used to say this all the time, (to win the governorship) you need to win seven counties. And five of those counties are right here in the southeast.”
“To be successful. I think Doug has to do a lot more campaigning, and I think he’s got to adapt his style to what the voters expect. It’s not always just what the candidate expects. I think he’s got to improve on his fundraising.”
The latest financial statements show that the Franklin County senator is far behind his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“With that said, some polls have Mastriano and Shapiro relatively close. And some have them 10 points apart. Polling has become less of an exact science through the evolution of communications,” said Mensch.
Mensch, who has represented parts of Montgomery, Bucks, and Berks counties since 2009, said that while his constituents have mixed views of Mastriano, “there is a large presence here in my district supporting Mastriano.”
“There is quite a heartbeat here for Doug, and I like a lot of what Doug is talking about. I really do,” Mensch said.
Unlike some other Pennsylvania Republicans, Mensch is not jumping ship to back Shapiro.
“I can’t be favorable toward Josh Shapiro, not only because of party affiliation, but I disagreed so much with the policy initiatives of Gov. Tom Wolf. I believe that Shapiro will just be an extension of those policies. And I think it’s really wrong for the freedoms of our people in this state.”
And while Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz may be trailing in the polls, Mensch still finds him impressive.
“He is a very smart man, a very accomplished doctor in his field. He has a great many significant achievements,” Mensch said. “But he’s got to get out his political platform, his political message,” said Mensch. “He’s campaigning against a man who has one or two policy issues.”
Mensch is definitely not impressed with Fetterman
“All he wants to do is legalize marijuana,” said Mensch. “You would expect that someone who’s running to be my U.S. senator would have more than one initiative.”
And Mensch mocked Fetterman for campaigning on his performance as mayor of Braddock, Pa. “Drive through Braddock. No one sees any improvement,” Mensch said.
“One ad says he has changed the job of the lieutenant governor,” said Mensch. “If that means he doesn’t know what he’s doing after four years, and he’s still incompetent at being the president of the Senate, then yes, he’s changed the job. He just doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m relatively unimpressed with (Fetterman).”
As for who he would like to see serve his constituents in the Senate after he retires, Mensch said that would be state Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Harleysville).
“She’s an incredible person,” said Mensch. “She really is. She’s so talented, so smart.”
Pennycuick “will be an incredible representative for the people in the 24th District in the Pennsylvania Senate…I don’t see a reason why she can’t get elected, and the mood in the district, as well as the polling in the district, would suggest that she’s an odds-on favorite for the seat.”
Democrat Jill Dennin, a community volunteer from Gilbertsville, is also running in the 24th.