Nine Republican leaders from across Pennsylvania on Wednesday endorsed Democrat Josh Shapiro for governor over their own party's nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, saying he is an extreme candidate who would undermine democracy.
Mastriano's relationship with establishment Republicans was already strained despite winning the May 17 primary against eight other candidates, a race that saw a groundswell of opposition from GOP leadership concerned that his far-right positions would drive moderate voters to Shapiro in November.
Mastriano has long been a supporter of unproven claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. As chair of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, he held a hearing in Gettysburg that November that saw Rudy Giuliani, poll watchers and a phone call from former President Donald Trump espousing claims of irregularities in the election. Mastriano has also championed legislation to restrict abortion access in Pennsylvania, often without exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
"I have proudly voted for the Republican candidate for Governor throughout my life, but I cannot vote for someone as extreme and dangerous as Doug Mastriano," said former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman Greenwood, who represented the state's 8th District between 1993 and 2005.
"Mastriano continues to fan the flames of division, doubling down on his threats to undermine our democracy and attacking anyone who dares to criticize him."
The endorsement of Shapiro by Republicans is the latest sign of discord with Pennsylvania's GOP.
More: 'Rig the system': GOP candidates for secretary of state run on Trump's election denial platform
In the final days before the primary, an all-out effort pushing support behind former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who was Mastriano's closest adversary in the polls, brought more than 100 endorsements form current and former members of Congress, state senators, county commissioners and other offices to keep Mastriano from taking the ballot spot.
Mastriano took nearly 44% of the nearly 1.35 million votes cast in his race, the other 54% spread across eight other candidates showing a clearly fractured GOP electorate. Wednesday's endorsements show the cracks in the party remain.
Mastriano's campaign did not respond to a message for comment.
Abortion ruling's effect on the governor's race
Although abortion is often a hot button issue in elections, past polling has shown a majority of Pennsylvanians don't support outright bans and that can make a hardline stance against the procedures a potential problem when trying to win over swing voters.
The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court has pushed the abortion debate front and center for the 2022 election season.
Shapiro had previously supported access for abortions as health care in Pennsylvania, but the recent court ruling brought warnings to voters that a victory for Mastriano would all but guarantee an abortion ban in 2023.
Mastriano's support of effectively tossing out the state's current voter rolls would, according to legal scholars, likely conflict with federal and state laws and fly in the face of constitutional protections.
Other former elected officials backing Shapiro were Denny O'Brian, a state House member for over 30 years in Philadelphia; Dave Steil, who represented the 31st House District in Bucks County from 1993 to 2008; Lita Cohen, who served the 148th House District in Montgomery County from 1993 to 2002; and former Montgomery County GOP Chair Ken Davis.
Mastriano campaigned linked Three Percenters?
Shapiro's campaign also raised concerns in a Tuesday press release claiming Mastriano's parade contingent marched in the Glenside July 4 parade in Cheltenham Township waving a Three Percenter's flag.
More: Jan. 6 Committee announces July 12 hearing to investigate how Capitol mob was organized, assembled
At least four men with ties to the group have been arrested in connection to the Jan. 6 riots that interrupted the certification of electoral college votes for the President Joe Biden election win in the 2020 election.
A U.S. House panel investigating the Jan. 6 riot has announced a July 12 hearing that is expected to include evidence suggesting that members of the Three Percenters and other far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys coordinated a planned attack on the Capitol Building.
Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel, was seen outside the Capitol on the day of the insurrection, and he was in regular communication with Trump as the then-president sought to reverse his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Mastriano said earlier this month he would be willing to sit for an interview with the House committee and his attorney, Timothy Parlatore, said Mastriano told the FBI that he did not know about a planned insurrection or any coordination behind the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Which Republicans are backing Shapiro?
The list of Republicans endorsing Shapiro are:
Charlie Dent, Former Congressman, Lehigh County
Jim Greenwood, Former Congressman, Bucks County
Sandra Schultz Newman, Former Justice of the PA Supreme Court, Montgomery
Denny O'Brien, Former Speaker of the House, Philadelphia County
Dave Steil, Former PA State Representative, Bucks County
Lita Cohen, Former PA State Representative, Montgomery County
Robert Jubelirer, Former Lieutenant Governor, Blair County
Morgan Boyd, Chairman, Lawrence County Board of Commissioners, Lawrence County
Ken Davis, Former Montgomery County GOP Chair, Montgomery County
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Mastriano loses support of 9 GOP leaders in PA governor's race