Josh Shapiro, the Democratic attorney general for Pennsylvania, is projected to become governor after defeating Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano on Tuesday.
His victory ensures that Mastriano, an election denier, will not be in charge of a key battleground state for the 2024 presidential contest — a prospect that had raised alarm across the country.
Mastriano did not concede at his election party Tuesday night, even after multiple news outlets called the race for Shapiro. Instead, the Republican candidate said his campaign will wait “until every vote is counted.”
“And so we’re going to wait patiently to see what the people of Pennsylvania have said and what the people of Pennsylvania say we’ll of course respect that,” Mastriano said.
Shapiro ran a campaign that often highlighted Mastriano’s extremism, with a specific focus on the state senator’s role in attempting to steal the election for former President Donald Trump in 2020.
“I’m not letting Doug Mastriano take away your vote,” Shapiro told supporters at a rally in Luzerne County earlier this week.
Mastriano — a far-right Christian nationalist who has allied himself with self-declared “prophets” and QAnon conspiracists — became a national figure in November 2020, when he tried to push through a resolution in the Republican-controlled state legislature that would have overturned President Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania, instead appointing electors who would declare Trump the winner.
Although this naked attempt at subverting democracy failed, the scheme endeared him to Trump and helped make Mastriano a MAGA star.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Mastriano chartered buses for Trump supporters to travel from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. for the “stop the steal” demonstration that preceded the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Mastriano posed for photos with fans at the event, and videos showed him walking toward the Capitol building after protesters had already charged past police barricades.
A year later, Mastriano announced his candidacy for governor, emerging as one of the most extreme right-wing candidates in a national election season chock-full of extremists on the ballot.
Shapiro, in what many political observers at the time saw as a risky move, bought ads designed to help Mastriano win his Republican primary, seeing him as an easier GOP opponent than other candidates.
After Mastriano won the primary, Shapiro painted his Republican opponent as too extreme and “dangerous” for Pennsylvania. He highlighted, for example, how Mastriano once stated that women who violated a proposed abortion ban barring the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy should be charged with murder.
He also drew attention to Mastriano’s relationship with Andrew Torba, the viciously antisemitic and racist founder of the social media platform Gab. Mastriano praised Torba and paid him $5,000 for “campaign consulting.” (HuffPost reported that this payment was likely for Mastriano to get more followers on Gab, a haven for white supremacists, including the one who killed 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue.)
Shapiro’s campaign made sure voters associated Mastriano with the outlandish QAnon conspiracy theory that predicts a coming “storm” in which Trump will mass-arrest his political enemies, who are supposedly all part of a globalist cabal of pedophiles. Mastriano had promoted the QAnon conspiracy 50 times on Twitter.
And Shapiro’s campaign ads also featured footage of Mastriano accepting a sword as a gift from a QAnon conspiracy theorist during a far-right event in Gettysburg. Mastriano had told supporters at the event that he would be Pennsylvania’s next governor because “my God will make it so.”