Democrat Josh Shapiro wins governor's race, defeating Doug Mastriano

Mark Levy
The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Democrat Josh Shapiro won the race for governor of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, securing the office for four years in a state where the future of abortion rights is on the line, along with management of the 2024 election in a battleground that is often decisive in choosing presidents.

Shapiro, the state’s two-term elected attorney general, ran to the middle on several key issues and smashed Pennsylvania’s campaign finance record in a powerhouse campaign, swamping Republican Doug Mastriano in a deluge of TV ads.

He had led polls from the start over Mastriano, and his victory — in a year in which Democrats nationally faced headwinds, including high inflation — made him the first governor to be elected to succeed a member of his party since 1966.

In light of June’s Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, Shapiro vowed to protect Pennsylvania’s existing 24-week law and he touted his office’s fights in court to protect the state’s 2020 election from former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn it.

Mastriano had said he supported a complete ban on abortion, with no exceptions, and had been a point person in Trump’s drive to stay in power and spread lies about a stolen election.

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Mastriano, a retired Army colonel and state senator, is a relative political novice who ran a hard-right campaign and refused for much of it to talk to mainstream news organizations, scuttling prospects for a debate with an independent moderator.

Polls suggested Shapiro was leading Mastriano, who drove off moderate voters by being a prominent ally in former President Donald Trump's effort to stay in power and marching to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, where he watched pro-Trump demonstrators attack police.

He struggled to raise money as he was hit with a deluge of Shapiro campaign ads but tried to counter it with an energetic campaign that relied on a passionate grassroots volunteer force and daily videos uploaded to Facebook to connect with followers.

They vied to succeed Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term and has endorsed Shapiro. The winner will likely share power with entrenched Republican majorities in the state Legislature.

A Shapiro victory would make him the first governor of Pennsylvania to be elected to succeed a member of his party since 1966.

Issues including the economy and abortion rights weighed heavily on voters.

Roughly 8 in 10 Pennsylvania voters say things in the country are moving in the wrong direction, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 3,100 voters in the state.

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, speaks with members of the media after casting his ballot in the midterm elections in Rydal , Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

About half the state’s voters say the economy and jobs are the most important issue facing the country, according to the survey. And about 8 in 10 voters rate the nation’s economy as either not so good or poor.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade also played a role in most voters’ decisions, with about 8 in 10 calling it a factor. Only about a quarter called it the single most important factor.

Most voters say they are confident ballots will be counted accurately, according to the survey, though 3 in 10 said they were either not too confident or not at all confident.

Meanwhile, close to 7 in 10 voters say they are very or somewhat concerned that Mastriano’s views are too extreme. Only about 4 in 10 say they are concerned about Josh Shapiro’s views being too extreme.

Mastriano, 58, used a hard-right platform to lock down the party’s furthest-right voters, secure Trump’s endorsement and win a crammed, nine-way primary election.

Shapiro, 49, a political force strong enough to clear the Democratic primary, came into the race as the all-time highest-vote getter in a single election in Pennsylvania, breaking the record in his 2020 reelection.

With no primary challenger to force him to the left on key issues, Shapiro took middle-of-the-road positions on policies around education funding, COVID-19 mitigation and energy.

Meanwhile, he endorsed Austin Davis, a state lawmaker, to be his running mate and, possibly, the first Black lieutenant governor in a state that has never elected a Black governor or U.S. senator.

In light of June’s Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, Shapiro vowed to protect Pennsylvania’s existing 24-week law. He also touted his office’s fight in court to protect the state’s 2020 election from Trump’s efforts to overturn it.

Mastriano has said he supports a complete ban on abortion, with no exceptions, and had been a point person in Trump’s drive to stay in power and spread his lies about a stolen election.

He dwelled on some national GOP talking points — blaming crime and inflation on Democrats — but he also spread conspiracy theories and took a hard line on cultural issues.

Those stances — as well as his actions on Jan. 6 — prompted some GOP officials to predict he was too extreme to win a general election in Pennsylvania.

Mastriano did more than any other candidate for governor in the U.S. to subvert the 2020 presidential election, and Democrats have accused him of preparing to subvert the next one from the governor’s office with his pledges to decertify voting machines and make voters re-register.