The Mastriano case for open primaries
Pennsylvania Republicans craving the governorship after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s two terms were foiled this year by a superior candidate in Democratic Governor-elect Josh Shapiro, and by their own primary election system. It produced the disastrous Republican nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who lost by 14 percentage points and probably hurt Republican candidates down the ballot.
Part of that walloping was because independent voters overwhelmingly chose Shapiro by more than 2-1.
There are 1.4 million independents among Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million registered voters, and they are the fastest-growing cohort. Yet state law does not allow them to vote in primary elections, leaving voters of each party alone to pick their candidates, or in Mastriano’s case, their poison.
The only issue in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary was which candidate could express the greatest degree of fealty to former President Donald Trump.
Mastriano had credibility in that regard. He regurgitated Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania had been stolen from Trump. He introduced a Senate resolution to prevent the election’s certification. He funded bus trips to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, to oppose Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote and hung around the Capitol amid the insurrection. He participated in the effort to name false electors.
That primary cred, however, was fatal in the general election. That’s why Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz attempted to dive to the center during the general election campaign after courting Trump’s endorsement to beat David McCormick in the primary.
Mastriano didn’t even try to court voters beyond the Trump base, and got shellacked.
There is a ready means for parties to save themselves from bad candidates and improve governance in the process.
Pennsylvania should adopt open primaries, which would allow independents to vote for candidates in primaries. If this year’s primary had been open, independents who helped clock Mastriano in the general election might have beaten him in the primary instead.
Open primaries could go a long way toward limiting extremism in either major-party primary and producing better nominees. The Senate passed an open-primary bill in 2019 but it died in the House. The full Legislature should approve the change in the new session.
— From the Scranton Times-Tribune (AP).