In post-election commentary and interviews, Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano is continuing to show why his campaign was drubbed in the general election by double digits — and it’s not all about the money, as he’d have you believe.
Mastriano continues to exaggerate, mischaracterize, and blame boogeymen rather than confront his errors, thereby illustrating many of the traits that caused so many of his own party not to vote for him in November.
Broad + Liberty sent a detailed list of questions to Mastriano about the issues explored below. He did not respond to that request.
In a January interview with 1210 WPHT radio host Dom Giordano, Mastriano said that Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel “raised one point some billion and squandered $20 million of that on, on gifts and luxury travel and have you. That money should have come to the state. It’s my earnest belief as a strategist — I got two degrees in strategy — that had $10 million of the $20 million as she spent on luxury travel and Botox, uh, came and ran ads against Shapiro, we could have walked away with it.”
It’s an extraordinary claim, so it deserves scrutiny. Mastriano’s source appears to be this 2022 article from RedState that attempted to detail some of the RNC’s spending under McDaniel. The highest combined total in that article for all the potentially wasteful spending in the 2021-22 cycle is $2.6 million, not the $20 million Mastriano is promoting. We find no credible source alleging McDaniel spent RNC funds on Botox, and certainly not millions.
In this instance, Mastriano not only appears to be exaggerating to insulate himself from the size of his loss, but gets the added benefit of scapegoating the party “establishment” to do so. Wasteful spending at the RNC can be debated. But unless Mastriano can cite a credible source, his $20 million figure is a lie.
Elsewhere in the interview, Giordano asked Mastriano why he underperformed in Lancaster County, compared to other Republicans both current and historical. Lancaster Online reported “Mastriano’s margin in Lancaster County, of only 4,399 votes over Democrat Josh Shapiro, was the smallest of any Republican gubernatorial nominee in modern history.”
To this, Mastriano said, “there’s a conservative outlet there that has a hundred thousand subscribers in the county. For some reason, they kept on — we agree on, on life and all these other [issues], but for some reason I, I wasn’t as perfect of a candidate as they imagined. And so, uh, they kept on hitting me and, and leaning towards libertarian. And so that had a bad effect on me.”
It appears Mastriano is referring to the Lancaster Patriot, which, as of this publishing, has 1,800 Facebook followers and fewer than 200 Twitter followers. Not only did he wildly exaggerate to save face, his excuse puts the lie to his current pitch that the “political movement” he leads is the unstoppable juggernaut — if in truth he was felled in a Republican-stronghold like Lancaster by a somewhat sympathetic media outlet with 2,000 social media followers.
Taken together, these three anecdotes present a disturbing trend of deception and exaggeration.
Mastriano was also in poor form when blaming the media for not attacking Shaprio on a cultural issue.
“I just wish, you know, and maybe this is, you know, a naive part of me here, I wish the media would be as severe on the controversial event that Josh Shapiro supports or goes to,” he told Giordano. “I mean, we uncovered that he was part of this drag queen story hour drag queen, you know, bingo show — no problem, you know, for Josh Shapiro to be, uh, talking with these radical groups here with a terrible agenda for our kids.”
His accusation about the “drag queen story hour drag queen, you know, bingo show” is intentionally sloppy phrasing hoping listeners will fill in the blanks with the darker parts of their imaginations. He’s used nearly exact phrasing before. In an interview with News Talk 103.7 FM, Mastriano said, Shapiro “hosted the drag queen, uh, story time or bingo or whatever.”
“Story hour” is patently misleading.
Mastriano appears to be referencing a 2009 “AIDS Fund’s Black-Tie GayBINGO” event.
Coverage by Philadelphia Gay News said, “The 10th-annual event will feature the same campy entertainment as always, guided by the antics of the drag-queens-on-skates Bingo-Verifying Divas, but it will also raise vital funds for area HIV/AIDS organizations and give recognition to a few of the individuals who’ve made AIDS Fund’s work possible over the past year,” (emphasis added).
According to Wikipedia, Drag Queen Story Hour wasn’t even a thing until 2015 — six years after Shapiro’s attendance at the BINGO event. Some of the original objections to such an event usually centered on the argument that the events weren’t proper for public libraries funded by public tax dollars.
The 2009 event was clearly a private affair, aimed at adults, benefitting a worthy cause. Mastriano’s claims that the group is radical is a farce. The fact that the report does note that one person in attendance brought their children is no fault of Josh Shapiro. What’s more, one of those children mentioned appears to have been college-aged when the event took place. And if private citizens choose to take their children to a private event with drag performers, that’s their right in a free society.
We realize accusations in campaign season aren’t made with 100 percent precision and clarity, and it’s the nature of campaigns to exaggerate certain facts on the edges of things when making attacks. But these exaggerations go far beyond the norm and raise serious questions about Mastriano’s grasp of the truth and his strategic judgment. His willingness to try and tarnish an AIDS fundraiser as “radical” raises questions about his values.
Taken together, these three anecdotes present a disturbing trend of deception and exaggeration.
Mastriano also is flailing on his reasoning and explanations around abortion.
He told Giordano, “one thing I was very clear on, on the campaign trail is, uh, what happens with abortion in Pennsylvania is not up to Governor Mastriano. Obviously, it’s gonna be up to the people with the General Assembly passing laws. There’s nothing you can do unilaterally on that.”
This is an astonishing dodge, but worse still is Mastriano had the nerve to complain in the same interview that “Josh successfully made [abortion] an issue.”
In a pre-primary debate, Mastriano was nowhere close to claiming the Pennsylvania governor was effectively powerless on the issue. He said, “I am pro-life…it’s my, the number one issue.”
How dare that Josh Shapiro elevate Mastriano’s number one issue?
Our research could not unearth anything to contradict this report from the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, which said, “since he won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in May, Mastriano — who has not responded to repeated requests for comment — has been largely silent on his abortion views.”
Say this to yourself again: he refused to engage on his number one issue, and had the brass to suggest his hands would be tied on that issue anyway, if elected.
READ MORE — Giordano interview: Mastriano says Republicans must adapt to mail-in voting
Where campaign finance is concerned, everyone knows Shapiro raised many times what Mastriano did, and that Republican-aligned political action committees like the Republican Governor’s Association did not give Mastriano any support.
Here again, Mastriano’s strategery was poorly calibrated.
From the outset, Mastriano branded his campaign as an uprising, a party takeover, to remove and replace the GOP’s “establishment.” That element of the campaign seemed purposefully calculated to mimic former President Trump’s 2015-16 campaign.
“Mastriano even sort of sounds like Trump,” PennLive reported. “When he announced his candidacy during a multiple-hour event near Gettysburg January 8, he said ‘establishment Republicans’ are ‘pissing their pants right now,’ over his candidacy.”
What differentiates Trump from Mastriano on funding is salient: If Trump was going to overthrow the “establishment,” he had the strategic sense to bring along his own fortune to do it. Mastriano wasn’t brokering any unity in his bid to destroy Republican “dinosaurs” and “RINOs.” It’s no wonder, then, unity didn’t magically materialize in the way Mastriano hoped it would after the primary.
In effect, before the primary, Mastriano was disparaging some Republicans as being fickle. After the primary, he then claims to be shocked(!) to discover that some Republicans might be fickle. Perhaps he can have one of those ways, but he shouldn’t get to have both.
Mastriano has expressed admiration for how Democrats united in 2022, but never seems to realize there are no examples of Shapiro or Fetterman bragging they were planning to decapitate their own party. You certainly won’t find them disparaging the donors they knew they would need in the general.
Mastriano applauds current Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Tabas for keeping the party from issuing an endorsement before the primary, but he had no problem with President Trump endorsing him. One may argue that there’s a difference between the endorsement of a person versus the endorsement of the party, and some of those arguments have merit. But in 2022, Trump was every bit as much “the party” as the actual elected party apparatus was.
Mastriano has taken to claiming that party-endorsed candidates have a 30 percent track record in his argument that the party should permanently abstain from endorsements. Trump’s record is worse. Sure, the former president endorsed some House Republicans in safe districts who won in 2022. But in the most important races — Michigan governor, Arizona Senate and governor, Nevada Senate, Georgia Senate, Pennsylvania Senate and governor — Trump failed miserably and unforgivably. Only Ohio Senator J.D. Vance rescued Trump from a humiliating oh-fer. Yet he’s not asking Trump to stop.
We have so many more questions for the man claiming to lead the biggest political movement in the Keystone state.
Would the GOP be better served with primaries that have runoff elections? If people donate directly to candidates and not organizations as he is now suggesting people do, then what are the core responsibilities of the state party? Did he go to his primary rivals and ask for their support?
We don’t necessarily mean it as a compliment to Mastriano when we say at least he’s conducted more post-election interviews than GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas, because Tabas has been embarrassingly silent since November.
The truth hurts, but postponing the day of reckoning will hurt worse. It’s possible Mastriano could be considering a run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2024, or another gubernatorial run in ‘26.
We hope we’ve offered enough evidence to convince you that the idea shouldn’t receive even a second of thought. His nomination to higher office in 2022 was a mistake that should never be repeated.
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