Prominent conservative fears 'unhinged' GOP gubernatorial hopeful could plunge country 'into chaos'
Donald Trump, Doug Mastriano (Photo by Ed Jones for AFP)

In Pennsylvania, the gubernatorial campaign of Republican nominee Doug Mastriano has been a major source of anxiety to Democrats as well as Never Trump conservatives. State Sen. Mastriano, a Christian nationalist and conspiracy theorist who believes the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, is even to the right of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — and he believes that Pennsylvania Republicans should be able to simply throw out any election results they don’t like.

One of Mastriano’s critics on the right is veteran conservative columnist George Will, an ex-Republican who has no use for former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. In a September 25 column for the Washington Post, Will lays out some reasons why Mastriano is not only dangerous for Pennsylvania, but also, for the United States on the whole. According to Will, Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race is “the 2022 election that poses the most risk to the nation.”

“Suppose voters pick the Republican candidate, Doug Mastriano,” the 81-year-old Will warns. “And suppose that late in the evening of November 5, 2024, Gov. Mastriano thinks Pennsylvanians picked the wrong person to receive the state’s presidential electoral votes. Today, candidate Mastriano promises that, as governor, he will have the executive power, and a mandate, to intervene, thus plunging the nation into chaos.”

One thing that separates Pennsylvania from other states is the fact that its governors, not voters, pick the secretary of state — or as it’s called in the Keystone State, “secretary of the commonwealth.” The Democrat who currently holds that position in Pennsylvania is Leigh M. Chapman, who was chosen by Democratic two-term Gov. Tom Wolf.

“A member of the House of Representatives is 1/435th of one half of one of the federal government’s three branches,” Will explains. “A senator is 1 percent of the other half. There are limits to how much actual, as opposed to aesthetic, damage a rogue legislator can do to the nation. A governor, however, can do important things on his own, especially if, as in Pennsylvania, he appoints the secretary of state, who administers elections…. Mastriano has raised money on a social media network frequented by anti-Semites, including the one who is accused of murdering 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, but what makes Mastriano more than an especially exotic political exhibit is his vow to appoint a secretary of state ‘who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything. And I can decertify every (voting) machine in the state.’”

Will continues, “In the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, Pennsylvania was decided by 0.7 and 1.2 percentage points, respectively. In 2024, the state probably will again be closely contested, and its electoral votes could determine the national winner. So, imagine Mastriano, who has neither evidence nor doubts that Trump won the 2020 election, decreeing ‘corrections’ to the election. His motives are frightening because they are pure: He has the scary sincerity of the unhinged whose delusions armor them against evidence.”

The conservative columnist writes that “fortunately,” the Democrat Mastriano is up against is “two-term” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Some of the polls released in September have shown Mastriano trailing Shapiro by 11 percent, including a Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll released on September 16 and a CBS News/YouGov poll that came out several days earlier. However, a poll released in mid-September by Atlanta-based Republican pollster the Trafalgar Group showed Shapiro ahead of Mastriano by only 2 percent.

“From the first census, 1790, until that of 1940, Pennsylvania was the second-most populous state,” Will observes. “In 1960, it had as many electoral votes, 32, as California, which today, has 54 to Pennsylvania’s 19. This fall, however, the state will matter more than any other, as its voters’ choice of governor will either imperil or reassure the nation that began here.”