On Nov. 8, 2022, voters across the state will head to the polls to elect the next governor of Pennsylvania, and it all comes down to two major candidates. One is Josh Shapiro, a lawyer who currently serves as Pennsylvania’s attorney general and is the Democratic Party nominee. The Republican Party nominee is Doug Mastriano, a retired military officer who currently represents Pennsylvania’s 33rd District in the State Senate.
For one, Mastriano played a role in the insurrection against the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by coordinating bus rides for Trump supporters to the protests and traveling to Washington, D.C. himself. Later, he was issued a subpoena by the United States House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack, but was not charged by the Department of Justice for his efforts to assist protesters in storming the Capitol. Mastriano has repeatedly continued to contest the results of the 2020 presidential election, threatening to repeal mail-in ballots while forcing all Pennsylvanians to re-register to vote if he were to be elected governor.
This potential disenfranchisement of Pennsylvania voters could have major ramifications for the 2024 presidential election, in which Mastriano would have power over the 20 electors representing Pennsylvania in the Electoral College. He could aim to give the governor and state legislature complete power over the creation of a new election commission, while taking away all authority over elections from the secretary of state. Mastriano has already gone so far as to propose a resolution weeks after the 2020 election that would reserve the power to appoint presidential electors for Pennsylvania to the state legislature, which is majority Republican. So, in the event he becomes governor and his preferred presidential candidate does not win the 2024 general election in Pennsylvania, his secretary of state, state legislature (which is expected to retain a Republican majority), and new election commission could refuse to certify electoral votes, endangering democracy in the country’s fifth most populous state.
Mastriano’s brand is representative of a growing trend of Christian nationalism and white supremacy that has seeped into local, state, and national races across the country this year. He has openly attacked discussions about racial and ethnic identity in Pennsylvania schools, directly targeting teachers, school administrators, and other educators by accusing them of teaching critical race theory. Mastriano has committed to slashing public education funding by over $10,000 per student, which is projected to potentially cut 118,000 jobs in public schools across the state.
He has also repeatedly called for policies that outlaw abortion with no exceptions (including to save the mother’s life), while charging those who go through an abortion as murder on religious grounds — threatening women’s reproductive rights across the state while supporting the end of the principle of separation of church and state. And what’s more, Mastriano has publicly posted Islamophobic content on social media and has financial ties to Gab, an extremist, antisemitic social networking service home to far-right QAnon conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, among others. This makes his candidacy and a potential governorship an imminent danger to Pennsylvanians.
Mastriano has touted incredibly homophobic policies, such as preventing transgender individuals from using public bathrooms and encouraging the practice of conversion therapy. He has also openly spoken out against same-sex marriage and the ability of same-sex couples to adopt children, and has attacked educators for promoting LGBTQ-inclusive education for students.
Keeping all of this in mind, it is worth noting that the most recent polls put Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro at six to 12 points ahead of Mastriano, placing him in a comfortable position to win the governor’s office just a few weeks out from the election. Shapiro is running on a platform promising to veto bills restricting abortion, expand telehealth services while fighting rising drug prices, provide financial incentives for solar projects and electric vehicles, invest in mental health initiatives and ban conversion therapy, expand mail-in voting and automatic voter registration, and commit to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, among other policies.
However, an electoral upset can still occur, and so it is more important than ever that we do whatever we can to ensure that Mastriano does not win the governorship. Whether you, as a Penn student, identify as moderate, liberal, conservative, progressive, libertarian, or don’t identify with any specific political ideology, I’m sure nearly all of us can agree that candidates like Doug Mastriano are a danger to our country’s democratic institutions, and so we must work together to prevent such extremists from assuming positions of political power.
So, if you are eligible and registered to vote in Pennsylvania, please do so on Nov. 8, because the last thing we need is turning an insurrectionist who has openly embraced Christian nationalism and white supremacy into the most powerful person in the state.
KESHAV RAMESH is a Wharton and College sophomore studying finance, statistics, and international studies in the Huntsman Program from South Windsor, CT. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.