Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for governor, putting a last-minute seal of approval on the far-right front-runner who has embraced his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in a statement Saturday.
Trump’s backing comes just days before a Tuesday primary where Mastriano has solidified himself as the leading candidate. Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general who is unopposed in his party’s primary for governor, has aired a TV ad seemingly designed to fortify Mastriano, whom even many Republicans believe would be their weakest candidate in a general election because of his extreme positions.
Several GOP leaders have called for the party to coalesce around a different candidate, former Rep. Lou Barletta.
Two Republicans — State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and former Rep. Melissa Hart — ended their campaigns for governor this week and endorsed Barletta.
Barletta issued a statement shortly after Trump’s, vowing to win the primary without his endorsement.
“Throughout this campaign I have proved that I’m the best Republican to unite the Republican Party and defeat Josh Shapiro, and I will continue unifying our grassroots conservatives towards our shared goal,” Barletta said. “I will continue making the case to the people that I am the only candidate who can unite the party and bring victory in November. I look forward to having President Trump’s endorsement Wednesday morning.”
Pennsylvania’s race to succeed term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is among the most important in the country this year. The next governor has the power to appoint a secretary of state to oversee vote-counting in what is a crucial battleground in presidential elections.
Mastriano is perhaps the state’s most prominent 2020 election denier, having led the charge to audit and reverse President Joe Biden’s win there.
He spearheaded a hearing in which Trump attorneys presented false claims of electoral fraud and pushed for the Legislature to appoint a slate of alternate electors.
Mastriano also was outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest Biden’s victory — he has said he left before the subsequent riot inside — and his campaign paid to bus people to Washington for the rally that preceded the violence.
He was subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 committee this year over his efforts tied to the alternate electors.