The Daily Item - 

May 13, 2022

Mastriano unfazed by ‘meaningless’ GOP maneuvering against campaign

BERWICK — Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano smiled, shook hands and chatted up two dozen supporters during a campaign stop Friday in Berwick, unbothered by political maneuvering within his own party to keep him from securing its nomination.

Two Republican challengers whose names will be on Tuesday’s primary election ballot for governor, state Sen. Jake Corman and former congresswoman Melissa Hart, suspended their respective campaigns late this week. They threw their support behind Lou Barletta, the former mayor of Hazleton and four-term congressman.

“I guess the swamp strikes back. It’s going to be meaningless. Both of them have so little support anyway,” Mastriano said, walking with his wife, Rebbie, and a few campaign staffers from a newly opened military museum to the nearby ROCKY Boxing Club.

On the day Mastriano rallied support in Columbia County, that county’s Republican Committee announced its endorsement of Barletta.

Congressman Fred Keller, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, former Gov. Mark Schweiker and former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley all offered late-week endorsements for Barletta.

The Barletta campaign gave its latest notice of a major announcement coming Saturday in Williamsport, an appearance to include former congressman and 2016 Donald J. Trump for President Pennsylvania Co-Chairman Tom Marino.

Trump hasn’t made an endorsement in the race, yet.

The party is fractured amongst nine different candidates on the primary election ballot, even if two are now hoping to divert votes to Barletta. Other leading candidates Dave White and Bill McSwain haven’t conceded and are actively campaigning.

Both Corman and Hart expressed that Republicans need a candidate this fall who can swing votes from Democrats and independents — that being Barletta, not Mastriano — if they’re to defeat Democrat Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“The same people that are saying that can’t even win the primary on their own,” said Mastriano, a state senator from Fulton County.

Shapiro is well-rested, at least from a campaign standpoint. He’s the only Democrat in the primary looking to succeed Gov. Tom Wolf, himself a Democrat and who is term-limited. Shapiro’s easily the most well-financed of any candidate, holding nearly $16 million.

And, Shapiro’s most recent advertising targets the opponent he seemingly expects to face in the Nov. 8 general election — that being Mastriano, not Barletta or any of the others.

“If there’s anyone that can beat Josh Shapiro, clearly it’s only me. I have the votes, I have the support, I have the momentum,” Mastriano said.

Mastriano was on the tail-end of a weeklong bus tour across Pennsylvania. He’s touted his grassroots support, frequently citing the approximate 29,000 individual signatures received to get on the primary ballot — easily besting the required 2,000 signatures and the totals returned by his competitors.

He’s positioned himself as the voice of the people; those angered by business closures and mask mandates intended to mitigate COVID-19, the implementation of no-excuse, mail-in voting, and the continued legality — at least for now — of abortion. He’s challenged election integrity and the outcome of the 2020 election, a message that resounds with his base even as compelling evidence of widespread voter fraud remains absent.

His position on these issues and more isn’t much different than that of his challengers. Barletta himself said this week that there’s “little daylight” between the Republican candidates on such issues. However, Mastriano carries himself with an air of authenticity that simply resonates with the party rank and file.

Mastriano entered the final stage of the primary election period with $792,490 in cash on hand. In the financial reporting period immediately prior, he raised more than $65,000 from individual donors contributing $50 or less.

Inside the ROCKY boxing gym, co-owner Leo Talanca beamed from the excitement Mastriano brought to the gym. But, issues of concern weren’t far from his mind.

“The world is getting out of hand. We need people in our corner to help us,” Talanca said, expressing concern about gas prices and a shrinking labor pool. The gym is a passion project. Talanca is a contractor by trade. “It’s ridiculous what’s going on.”

Tom and Sheila Fuccile, husband and wife, watched Mastriano work the crowd inside the gym. Tom Fuccile said Mastriano is down to earth, has common sense, and favors limited government.

“I noticed during the pandemic he was the only one out there fighting for us, so I want him to continue to fight for us for school choice. Everything he stands for is what I believe in,” Sheila Fuccile said.