When Doug Mastriano issued his concession letter on November 13th acknowledging his defeat, one could be forgiven for thinking he was a changed man. The letter took a conciliatory tone. In it, Doug plainly states, “Josh Shapiro will be our next Governor, and I ask everyone to give him the opportunity to lead and pray that he leads well.” He even extended a bipartisan olive branch to his rival, stating that, “I will do my very best to help Josh Shapiro deliver [election reform] to Pennsylvanians and, if he does, I will be the first to acknowledge and applaud his achievement.”
However, in the days that followed his letter, Doug reverted to his natural state while taking to the airwaves on Facebook Live and News Talk 1037FM. Doug may have acknowledged defeat, but from his own telling blame lies with everyone but himself. Meanwhile, he enjoys bragging about his election performance.
On both Facebook Live and the radio interview, Doug touted that, “We have a record 2.2, almost 2.3 million, people that voted for me and Carrie DelRosso. That is a record for a Republican running for governor of the state of Pennsylvania. We got out the vote, we did our part.”
Indeed, Doug did his part in delivering a historic defeat to Pennsylvania’s GOP. Not since the mid-fifties has one political party held the governor’s mansion for three straight terms. Doug’s disastrous run also coincides with the GOP losing control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the first time in a decade. Doug also doesn’t get the record straight about his supposed record setting night: Republican candidate Bill Scranton won the 1962 gubernatorial election with more than 2.4 million votes.
Doug laid his defeat at the feet of other Republicans. On his Facebook Live chat with 750 devoted supporters, Doug noted, “We got beat up by a renowned Republican organization based out of Harrisburg that spent millions of dollars trying to destroy us and our campaign, which is obviously unacceptable.” However, he is careful not to name the organization. If this organization is really to blame for Doug’s defeat, don’t his supporters deserve to know who they are?
Despite skirting responsibility for his own failures, Doug boasted to News Talk that “ the blame game is going to be there and I’m not going to get involved.” Yet later in the interview, Doug did just that, stating, “There was damage done [in the primary] to my reach and influence with other Republicans by being bashed with $16 million of PAC money, you know, in support of McSwain against me.” Speaking of another primary rival, Doug said “a couple candidates dropped out in the primary to try to solidify behind Lou, and that didn’t work either. And so I won the primary with overwhelming numbers.”
His harsh words for his primary opponents and those that backed them contradict Doug’s own rules for politics. For instance, Doug stated the backers of his primary opponents broke former President Reagan’s rule, “Thou shalt not speak ill of other Republicans.” He seems to believe this applies to every Republican not named Doug Mastriano. Similarly, Doug loves to tout the importance of unity, “with unity we are unstoppable…imagine if we get our act together on our side here.”
Doug’s own actions after the primary prevented unity. One of Doug’s primary opponents, who requested not to be named, said Doug did not reach out after the primary to ask for support and to consolidate resources. This primary rival said that another candidate, whom this individual dropped out to support before the May election, also heard nothing from Mastriano after the primary. This is basic politics: after a primary the victor works hard to get his opponents on board. While Doug may claim it was his opponents’ responsibility to get behind him, common sense dictates it is his responsibility to rally the party, not the other way around. Imagine if Doug got his act together.
Doug’s unconventional and poorly executed general election strategy did not go unnoticed by the grassroots in Pennsylvania. Zigmund Reichenbach, who has advanced libertarian and conservative causes throughout Pennsylvania, witnessed Doug’s struggles from the ground. Zigmund highlighted Josh Shapiro’s attempts to reach persuadable voters by moderating on positions such as education reform and opposing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Meanwhile, “Doug, in contrast, appeared to take the opposite approach. He didn’t target any key demographic in particular and when he did speak he only seemed to speak to the people who had already voted for him the primary.” This approach translated to other poor decisions. Zigmund also noted, “Doug stuck too close to Central PA throughout his campaign.”
Despite his grievances, Doug did speak kindly about the Chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania Lawrence Tabas, the state party committee, and GOP county chairs, noting “we have great leadership in the form of our county chair[s] and the form of Lawrence Tabas.”
However, Doug is nearly alone in his praise of Tabas and the state GOP apparatus. Following Mastriano’s primary victory, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Editorial Board presciently wrote, “Under Mr. Tabas’ leadership, the state GOP took a hands-off approach to this year’s primaries. Perhaps he, and members of the party’s state committee, felt that endorsing candidates or attempting to curate the field would only strengthen Mr. Mastriano’s anti-establishment appeal. But doing nothing — until a pathetic eleventh-hour attempt to consolidate behind former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta — was a dereliction of duty not just to the party, but to all the people of Pennsylvania. There’s no point in being party leader if you won’t lead the party.”
The Editors of Broad + Liberty had similarly pointed criticism of the failures of Pennsylvania’s GOP. Zigmund held the same view but brought a different perspective, sharing, “The GOP hasn’t been able to create a voter turnout machine that makes any difference. In fact, many county committees are committees in name only…there are no phone banks of any consequence and committee members don’t engage in voter contact at the door. While I’ve heard…mention that Republicans could win elections by increasing voter turnout nothing has really been done at the county or state level to work towards that end.”
Given Doug’s recent comments, he has proven his detractors were correct all along: Doug is incapable of change, unwilling to learn the hard lessons of defeat, and unable to accept responsibility for his loss. The question remains, will voters in Pennsylvania do the same or are Pennsylvania Republicans finally ready to turn the corner?
Seth Higgins, a native of Saint Marys, Pennsylvania, specializes in bringing conservative thought to local government. Seth is a former Tablet Magazine Fellow and is currently a Krauthammer Fellow with The Tikvah Fund.