Meet Doug Mastriano, the Extreme MAGA Republican Nominee for Pennsylvania Governor

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, a Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, speaks at a primary night election gathering in Chambersburg, Pa., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Keya Vakil

May 18, 2022

Mastriano wants to ban abortion after six weeks with no exceptions, has amplified QAnon and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and has spent 18 months lying about voter fraud and trying to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election–an effort he compared to opposing the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Conspiracy theorist, election denier, and far-right Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano is the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, after handily winning the party’s primary election on Tuesday.

Mastriano, a controversial figure who earned former President Donald Trump’s endorsement last week, defeated former Rep. Lou Barletta, former US District Attorney Bill McSwain, and former Delaware County councilman Dave White.

Mastriano will now face off against Democratic nominee and current Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro come November in a race that prominent Republicans in the commonwealth are already admitting is all but lost. In fact, Mastriano is so radical that some high-profile Pennsylvania Republicans are even considering publicly supporting Shapiro.

What makes Mastriano so radical? 

For starters, Mastriano has embraced Christian Nationalism—the wrongheaded idea that the US was created as a Christian nation and is now under attack, even as Christians remain, by far, the largest religious bloc in the country. For Christian nationalists, however, that’s not enough. Christian nationalists believe they’re in a battle with secular and satanic forces and want to impose and enforce Christian dogma over the country in political, religious, and social spheres. 

While Mastriano has rejected that label, he has spoken at Christian Nationalist events alongside speakers espousing the ideology. 

As newsletter A Public Witness reported last week, Mastriano appeared at an April 23 event in Gettysburg called “Patriots Arise for God, Family, and County”—an event hosted by Allen and Francine Fosdick, who have promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories alleging Jewish people have been causing wildfires through “space weather” and lasers, want to subjugate the human race, and have evil “bloodlines.”

During his speech at the event, Mastriano said his campaign came from “the call of God” and denounced those who have engaged in “persecution” against him for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. He also compared himself to the heroic biblical figure Esther, compared Democrats to Haman (Esther’s primary antagonist), and railed against the “myth of separation of church and state.”

“God is really working in our state,” Mastriano added. “In November, we’re going to take our state back. My God will make it so.”

His supporters have spoken in similar terms, describing him as the “chosen candidate” and someone picked by God to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory in Pennsylvania.

As organizations like Media Matters for America have documented, Mastriano’s got a lot of other baggage, too:

  • Prior to being elected in 2018, Mastriano posted more than 50 tweets amplifying the violent, deadly, and widely discredited QAnon conspiracy theory. Adherents of QAnon essentially believe that Trump—a billionaire real estate tycoon—was secretly working to take down the “deep state,” a supposed cabal of high-ranking officials who are running secret pedophile rings. 
  • Mastriano also promoted Pizzagate, another conspiracy theory that led to violence. Even after his election, he continued to affiliate himself with the QAnon movement, appearing on QAnon programs. 
  • Mastriano has also shared false, anti-vaccine information on his Facebook and repeatedly embraced violent rhetoric when discussing his political opponents. He has also said he would push to ban abortion as early as six weeks, with no exceptions.
  • Shortly after then-candidate Joe Biden defeated former President Trump in the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, Mastriano got to work promoting lies about voter fraud and trying to overturn the election results. He was also in communication with an appointee in Trump’s Department of Justice regarding his false claims of voter fraud. 
  • In December 2020, Mastriano appeared on the QAnon-focused program, The Common Sense Show, where he compared his effort to overturn the election to fighting against the terrorists on Flight 93 and opposing the rise of Adolf Hitler. 
  • Mastriano continued to spout violent rhetoric and lies about voter fraud in the lead up to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol and said Republicans “don’t even realize that, you know, basically we’re in this death match with the Democrat Party.”
  • Mastriano paid for people to bus down to Washington, DC for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally and was also present at the protest himself, which led to the insurrection at the US Capitol—an attack on American democracy that resulted in five deaths. Mastriano said he condemned the violence and never entered the Capitol, but footage shows he was on the Capitol lawn.

If elected in November, Mastriano would wield enormous power over elections in the commonwealth, a potentially catastrophic development for democracy. 

Mastriano has supported the idea that the state legislature should ignore the winner of the popular vote in a presidential election and appoint their own electors—a particularly dangerous belief for a potential governor. If he defeats Shaprio, Mastriano would also get to appoint the secretary of state for Pennsylvania, a role that oversees elections in the commonwealth. At a debate last month, Mastriano also said his secretary of state would “reset” Pennsylvania’s voter rolls so all 9 million registered voters in the state would “have to re-register.” 

It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize the chaos this could unleash and taking these comments together, Mastriano appears to be signaling that he would have no problem overturning a Democratic presidential victory in Pennsylvania in 2024.


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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