(WHTM) – Republicans and Democratic leaders across Pennsylvania are waking up Saturday morning to the news that former President Donald Trump has endorsed State Senator Doug Mastriano for Governor of Pennsylvania.
The news came a day after Axios reported Trump was leaning towards endorsing Mastriano, who is leading in recent polls over former Trump-endorsed congressman Lou Barletta.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for election integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” said Trump in a statement on Saturday morning.
Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has pushed unproven conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election, has previously endorsed Oz’s opponent Kathy Barnette.
“I’m honored to receive the endorsement from President Trump, today,” said Mastriano. “But the honor is not for me. It’s for the millions of hard-working Pennsylvanians who want their individual liberties restored, power returned to the people, and for their elected leaders to fulfill the America First — and Pennsylvania First — agenda.”
In February Mastriano was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee for allegedly being “part of a plan to arrange for an “alternate” slate of electors from Pennsylvania for former President Trump and reportedly spoke with President Trump about post-election activities.”
The committee released its letter to Mastriano saying they “understand that (Mastriano was) present during the attack” and that he witnessed attacks on officers.
During Nexstar’s Republican Gubernatorial debate on April 28, Mastriano stated “there are no legal issues” regarding him and the Jan. 6 committee. During the debate, Mastriano also vowed to reset Pennsylvania’s voter roll, forcing all eligible residents to re-register to vote.
According to the Associated Press, “such a move is barred by the National Voter Registration Act and likely runs into significant protections under the federal — and possibly state — constitution and laws, constitutional law scholars say.”
Should Mastriano win the Republican nomination on May 17, he will face Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in November, as Shapiro is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
“Trump just endorsed one of the most extreme and dangerous GOP candidates in the country for Governor of PA,” said Shapiro Saturday morning. “(Mastriano) wants to ban abortion and undermine elections. He attended the 1/6 insurrection and crossed police barricades. We cannot let him win.”
Pennsylvania Democrats responded by calling Mastriano the “most extreme and dangerous Republican candidate for Governor.”
“Mastriano is incredibly dangerous and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party will do all it can to ensure he doesn’t get anywhere near the Governor’s office.”
Trump’s endorsement of Mastriano snubs the establishment Republican Party’s pick Lou Barletta. Gubernatorial candidates Jake Corman and Melissa Hart each dropped out of the race this week to endorse Barletta with party leaders reportedly worried about a Mastriano victory on May 17.
Barletta reacted to Trump’s endorsement of Mastriano with a statement on Saturday.
“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,” said Barletta on Saturday. “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.”
A Barletta endorsement from State Senator and former gubernatorial candidate Scott Martin is expected on Sunday.
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Two of the other top candidates in the race, Philadelphia-area businessman Dave White and former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, each criticized Corman for dropping out and endorsing Barletta, saying they would push until the end.
Following Trump’s endorsement of Mastriano, White took to Twitter to share his platform and “@” Donald Trump Jr. in each tweet.
McSwain, who Trump emphatically un-endorsed earlier this year while claiming McSwain did not help overturn the 2020 election, has not reacted on social media as of 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
The other candidates who remain in the race polling in the single digits are Nche Zama, Joseph Gale, and Charlie Gerow.