Doug Mastriano’s island campaign is full of dedicated supporters – and serious doubts
Katie Meyer / WHY
Doug MastrianoThe small get-togethers across Pennsylvania are the most important part of his gubernatorial campaign. But as the election enters its final months, GOP insiders — and even some dedicated fans — worry the Islander campaign isn’t reaching enough voters.
The Mastriano events prove staunch supporters for photo ops and speeches on central campaign issues: conspiracy theories about voter fraud and immigration, culture war hotspots like women and transgender girls playing sports, and the specter of pandemic mitigation measures that have since ended.
But at an event this week in Pennsburg, Montgomery County, concerns about Mastriano’s campaign were also prominent.
“Understand something, we don’t have Little Josh’s $30 million in the bank,” campaign organizer Don Beishl told the 100-plus attendees ahead of Mastriano’s speech, referring to Attorney General Josh Shapiro. , the Democratic candidate.
“You guys,” Beishl told the crowd, “you are our $30 million.”
Mastriano, a state senator since 2019, began building his statewide reputation on Facebook during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic — posting live videos in which he reflected on the camera of her phone about his belief that global warming is “pop science”, talked about his Christian faith and called on people to find new churches if services were not in personand shared many times baseless conspiracy theories about 2020 election fraud.
Many of his current supporters have been on his side ever since.
Supporter Linda Mullins, who is 54 and lives in Telford, said she found out about Mastriano when he started making the live videos, saying “he was the only one telling the truth”. Ever since Mastriano started running for governor, Mullins has been doing her part by telling her friends and people she works with.
“It can’t be all about the money,” she said at the Pennsburg event. “It’s not just about money. It’s about meeting people where they are.
But if Mastriano, who got about 44% of the vote in the crowded GOP primary, wants to expand its reach beyond dedicated supporters like Mullins, it could take money.
His campaign never got much. One of Pennsylvania’s highest-spending GOP PACs actively tried to prevent him from winning during primary. He ended the last campaign finance reporting period, which ended in early June, with less than $400,000 in hand. Shapiro ended the same period with $13.5 million.
More mainstream politicians have publicly rallied since then, abandoning their previous concerns that Mastriano was too extreme even if he did not moderate his rhetoric. At the Pennsburg rally, Montgomery County GOP Chair Liz Havey sought to reassure supporters of that fact: “We’re thrilled to have Doug as our nominee,” she said. “Don’t believe what you read.”
Still, concerns persisted privately. A GOP operative with knowledge of the race said that while he now supports Mastriano, he had “seen no evidence of campaign structure” and was confused by the overall plan.
As the election approached, the campaign apparently sought to create a bit more structure. He recently shared contact details with supporters of six regional directors or director teams in charge of different parts of the state, though few appear to have much political experience.
As Mastriano’s events have started to pick up steam — he recently held a rally in Pittsburgh with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and has another planned with Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre — small get-togethers tend to be affordable. The Pennsburg event was hosted at Jurin Roofing Services, which the campaign says is also its new regional campaign office. The owner, a campaign staffer noted, lets the campaign use the facility for free. He also donated $2,000, which the campaign blew into a huge ceremonial check.
Beishl, a Bucks County-based organizer and Conservative radio show host, is one of the few regional managers to have worked on campaigns in the past.
During the speech at the Pennsburg event in which he acknowledged Mastriano’s financial disadvantage, he pointed out that relatively moderate voters in the populous suburbs of Philadelphia are “gonna be the key to winning us this election.”
“Get your friends to volunteer, knock on doors and work in the polls,” he said.
After the event, Beishl declined to comment on the financial health or structure of the campaign, saying all reporters must first email a press account and be vetted before staff speak to them. An email on the account went unanswered.
This has been a constant throughout the campaign. Mastriano kept his media appearances almost exclusively on right-wing radio and television shows. As with all Mastriano events, the press who presented themselves as such in Pennsburg were confined to a paddock away from fans and out of reach of speeches. Campaign staff did not notice or stop reporter WHYY who was watching the event from the crowd.
Much of Mastriano’s speech dwelt on social issues. He has repeatedly told his supporters that he believes himself to be a feminist, due to his work to ban transgender women and girls from participating in sports with cisgender women. It’s an increasingly common topic of discussion among the right wing of the GOP, although it’s rare for trans women and girls to participate in organized sports, and Pennsylvania Republicans have said they have no idea how many transgender athletes there are in the Commonwealth.
He poked fun at former Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who is transgender, and the crowd joined him.
On several occasions, he also spoke of his opposition to school closures, vaccine and mask mandates and the teaching of critical race theory – an academic setting mostly confined to higher education which examines the impact of structural racism on American institutions.
Some of the biggest cheers came when Mastriano spoke about his plans for the US southern border.
‘We can’t afford to have illegals in Pennsylvania,’ he said, before adding that the Biden administration is bringing ‘ghost flights’ full of undocumented immigrants to Pennsylvania — another topic. fairly common right-wing discussion sensationalises a common part of the US immigration system.
The Montgomery County crowd was uniformly enthusiastic. But among supporters, it was clear that some worried Mastriano would raise enough money to win over swing voters who aren’t yet on board.
Waiting in the roofing company‘s parking lot before Mastriano’s speech, a man fell into a conversation with a campaign volunteer about strategy. He wanted to know if these types of little meet-and-greets were the campaign’s main plan to compete with the well-funded Shapiro?
“You know, less than 90 days ago,” he said. “What else is being done to get people out?”
The employee did not answer this question. The big problem, she says, is voter fraud. No matter what kind of campaign Mastriano runs, she doesn’t think the results will be reliable anyway.