Many Pennsylvanians watched the November 2021 election results in Virginia with envy and anticipation. Glenn Youngkin and Winsome Sears, with the support of parents across their state, won a big victory to take the top executive offices. Once sworn in, they began making changes immediately.
Parents’ groups in Pennsylvania are hoping for a similar outcome this November, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen. The Republican primary last week left many parents and voters feeling uneasy about the general election. This election was the most expensive Republican primary in the state’s history, and the U.S. Senate race has not even been decided yet. Between the governor, lieutenant governor, and senate Republican primaries, as of mid-May, almost $100 million was spent. A significant amount of these funds was spent on attack ads.
With gas prices approaching $5 per gallon, grocery prices continuing to increase, and supply chain issues, many Pennsylvania families are struggling. To spend $100 million during a Republican primary seems obscene compared to the real challenges facing most Pennsylvanians. Expensive attack mailers weekly did not sit well with many parents when they can’t find formula to feed their babies.
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Part of the reason for the enormous money drop is related to the number of candidates who were on the ballot. For the Republican primary in the three statewide races, there were 25 candidates on the ballot. Most primary voters do not have the time to research and vet 25 different candidates. Many rely on the state party to endorse or at least recommend candidates. Yet, for the first time in many years, the Pennsylvania GOP did not endorse any candidates for the top offices.
This decision left many GOP county committees searching for the best way to address the situation. Some endorsed candidates, but most did not. In some counties that endorsed, local committees disagreed with the county endorsement or recommendations, and they made their own sample ballots. Overall, the Pennsylvania GOP is in complete disarray from the state level down to the precincts.
Added to the issue are the very large donations by special interest groups. One group changed their endorsement for governor two days prior to the primary election in an attempt to beat the eventual winner, Doug Mastriano. This same group spent large sums of money in an attempt to defeat Mastriano through negative mail campaigns. Their efforts may have led to better name identification for Mastriano and assisted his victory last week.
After all this drama and money, the real question remains. Can Mastriano beat Shapiro in November? Does Pennsylvania have a chance to repeat the success achieved in Virginia?
Finally, add to the confusion an endorsement by former President Trump for senate and eventually governor. Trump endorsed Mehmet Oz in early April and, so far, that endorsement has not resulted in an overwhelming victory. Even more surprising was the last-minute endorsement of Mastriano. He was already leading in the polls, and clearly did not need an endorsement to win. What was Trump’s real motivation for endorsing Mastriano the weekend before the election? If he was committed to Mastriano, why didn’t he endorse back in April? Could it be that he was simply looking for a win on his record? Trump’s actions do not seem at all related to the best interests of Pennsylvanians.
This chaos may have created the perfect storm where Doug Mastriano won the GOP nomination for governor. However, he is now paired with a lieutenant governor candidate who was financially backed and endorsed by the same special interest group that ran the smear campaign against him.
After all this drama and money, the real question remains. Can Mastriano beat Shapiro in November? Does Pennsylvania have a chance to repeat the success achieved in Virginia? Are parents and taxpayers disgusted enough with the Wolf and Biden administrations to come out and support the GOP ticket in November? That answer won’t be known until November, but clearly the Pennsylvania Republican Party has a lot of work to do to instill faith in its members.
Beth Ann Rosica currently serves as the Executive Director of Back to School PA, a political action committee that supports school board candidates who place the interests of children first. She holds a Ph.D. in Education and has dedicated her career advocating on behalf of underserved children and families.