State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, attends the Senate Education Committee Hearing held at the Pennsylvania Capitol on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
Just when it seemed like the Pennsylvania races for governor and U.S. Senate had calmed down for the summer after a raucous primary, both races took another surprising turn recently.
A Congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection revealed that a number of GOP senior officials, including former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, admitted they never believed Trump’s assertion that the election was stolen from him.
Their comments raised serious doubts that Trump himself believed the claims.
They said his accusations of election fraud were investigated but no evidence of any wrongdoing was uncovered.
Both U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano have been big backers of Trump and supported his claims that the election was stolen, Mastriano attended the insurrection rally but maintained that he left before things got violent.
It remains to be seen how the revelations will all play out on the campaign trail and if they will have any impact on the races. It seems unlikely that Republicans will come around to realizing they were duped by Trump, but independent voters might be another story. It’s also possible that the dramatic revelations will spur Democratic voters to turn out in greater numbers than anticipated.
The revelations add more drama and intrigue to the races, which already have seen more twists and turns than a Netflix political thriller.
Oz, a celebrity cardiothoracic surgeon, and David McCormick, former CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, emerged from the field of seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination as the front runners in the race, despite neither having any experience in politics.
Oz and McCormick proved to be excellent fundraisers, each raising millions of dollars, which they spent mostly on negative ads against each other.
Oz, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, only beat McCormick by 953 votes, leading to an automatic vote recount and various legal challenges as to how ballots were being counted.
However, just when it seemed that the race was going to end up in a bitter court fight, McCormick conceded to Oz and most importantly pledged his support for him. There had been some concern that McCormick’s supporters might not back Oz given all the negative campaigning that went on.
However, those concerns were quelled by McCormick’s comments, with McCormick telling Oz that he had his “full support.”
“It is so important for Pennsylvania, so important that we beat John Fetterman, and so important for the country that we take back the majority in the Senate,” added McCormick, who lost by 951 votes in the recount.
Meanwhile, Fetterman had his issues. After suffering a stroke shortly before the primary, It turned out that Fetterman was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation five years ago. He watched his diet and worked out as his doctors recommended, but he quit taking the medication prescribed for him.
Fetterman’s cardiologist Dr. Ramesh Chandra revealed that he has both atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy, but he expects Fetterman to make a full recovery.
“The prognosis I can give for John’s heart is this: If he takes his medications, eats healthy and exercises, he’ll be fine,” Chandra wrote. “If he does what I’ve told him, and I do believe that he is taking his recovery and his health very seriously this time, he should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem.”
Fetterman has been sidelined by his medical problems, but he’s expected to resume campaigning next month.
While not as controversial as the Senate race, the GOP contest for the governor’s GOP primary did contain some big surprises as Mastriano ran away with the victory winning by 23 points over the second-place finisher Louis Barletta. Mastriano, who was endorsed at the last minute by Trump, beat eight other mandates, including several with extensive credentials and experience.
Mastriano has served as a state Senator since 2019. He represents the 33rd district, which includes all of Adams County and parts of Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro ran unopposed to win the Democratic Party nomination.
Both Shapiro and Fetterman have one thing going in their favor as they had the most votes of any of the candidates in either primary, Shapiro tallied 1,225,117 votes, while Mastriano won the GOP nomination with 591,062 votes.
Fetterman topped three other Democrats with 752,313 votes, while Oz won the GOP primary over six other foes with 420,000 tallies.
But make no mistake the general elections will be challenging for Democrats, with gas prices soaring, the stock market crashing, and inflation roaring out of control.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s poll numbers are tanking, with many voters, fairly or not, blaming him for all the woes.
While this might not be the best year for Democrats, they can look back to the 2018 general election for some inspiration. In the aftermath of Trump’s Pennsylvania win in 2016, Republicans were hoping to defeat Democratic Party incumbents Gov, Tom Wolf, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
To help draw Trump supporters, the GOP ran two Trump-like clones in Lou Barletta for the Senate and Scott Wagner for governor.
However, Wolf and Casey both won easily, beating their GOP opponents by 17 and 13 percentage points, respectively.
Wolf even won heavily-Republican Cumberland County topping Wagner there 52,807-49,496. In 2016, Trump won the county, crushing Hillary Clinton 69,076 to 47,085. Located next to Dauphin County, which includes Harrisburg, Cumberland County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state.
It will be a key county to watch this fall. To win, both Oz and Mastriano will need strong showings there.
So, will there be a repeat of 2018 or will the GOP candidates emerge victorious like Trump in 2016? As usual, turnout will be critical. Who generates the most passion and highest turnout will likely be the victor.
But with all the surprises so far, don’t be surprised if there aren’t a few more bombshells along the way before November.
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