Log In

Reset Password

Opinion: Dangerous state legislator now wants to be our governor

There are times when I wish I could bar some candidates from running for public office because I believe they are a potential danger to our laws and institutions. I know I can’t do something like that, so I am left to grit my teeth and hope that the electorate will unmask these charlatans before they do more damage than they already have.

The most recent examples are state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who issued a statement after meeting his fundraising goal that he will formally announce that he is a candidate for governor at a Jan. 8 rally near his Franklin County home in south-central Pennsylvania, and Steve Lynch, the Republican candidate for Northampton County executive, who was defeated by incumbent Democrat Lamont McClure in last November’s general election.

Despite Lynch’s dangerous rhetoric, he still received the support of 44% of those who cast ballots in the executive’s race, which in itself is unsettling and indicative of the political upheaval and national discord.

At a rally, Lynch issued not-so-veiled threats against members of the Northampton Area School Board concerning masking mandates. When there was a backlash, Lynch backed down, but the angry and ugly rhetoric didn’t stop. The day after the election, Lynch condemned the vote count process and vowed that he will still be around to spread lies and disinformation. Of course, he didn’t characterize it that way. No, he is the truth-dispenser. Yeah, and I’m the tooth fairy.

Lynch was promising to do things that as a county executive he did not have control over. How could voters buy into something like that? It shows how polarized we are, that some voters will back Mr. Magoo if he promises to shake up the system, even if he has to tell lies and spread conspiracy theories to try to do it.

As for Sen. Mastriano, he became infamous as he has tried to perpetuate “the big lie” that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election and also carried Pennsylvania. Neither of these claims is true, and they have been debunked six ways from Sunday by election officials, the state Legislature, Congress and the courts.

In October, Mastriano said he was considering running for governor but was waiting for a sign from God by providing enough campaign funds.

After all, running for statewide office in a spread-out state such as Pennsylvania with multiple media markets requires millions of dollars and support from all sorts of special interests and others who can be persuaded or cajoled into joining the “cause.”

In 2018, candidates spent $64 million running for the top spot, far short of the $82 million record set in 2014 when Democrat Tom Wolf defeated incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.

Mastriano had been making campaign appearances for months even though he is not formally a candidate. In them, he pushes debunked claims about the 2020 election, claiming widespread voter fraud. He also is an anti-masker and anti-vaxxer, and he is not shy about repeatedly making fun of fellow Republicans, who, Mastriano believes, don’t measure up.

Although he has been a state senator for less than a full term, he has caught the eye of Trump and, by extension, conservative Trumpians across the country. After the November 2020 election, Mastriano unsuccessfully tried to convince lawmakers to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. Biden captured Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes by winning the state by about 80,000 votes.

Mastriano also made headlines for spending thousands in campaign funds to bus protesters to the Stop the Steal event that led to the Jan. 6 riot and insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Then Mastriano pushed for the discredited Arizona-style “forensic audit” of election procedures in Pennsylvania counties. After returning from Arizona, Mastriano said he wanted a similar audit in Pennsylvania “to restore people’s confidence in the vote,” he said. Mind you, there had been two audits already, along with unsuccessful court challenges by GOP partisans that reported officially that no widespread fraud was found.

Every county in Pennsylvania, which includes Republican and Democratic election officials, has concluded that the 2020 general election was one of the most secure ever held in the commonwealth.

Mastriano was chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee. When it was disclosed that he took the lone wolf step of sending on committee letterhead a directive to three counties - Philadelphia, York and Tioga - asking for “information and materials” needed to conduct the audit and a “plan to comply,” the you-know-what hit the proverbial fan. The Democrats on the committee objected, saying that this type of inquiry is not part of this committee’s jurisdiction and urged the counties not to comply. Some top Republicans also complained about Mastriano’s heavy-handed approach.

When the feud among Republicans spilled into the public arena, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, got involved and stripped Mastriano of his chairmanship because “he had not gotten the job done.”

Even though there are lots of questions about a Mastriano candidacy, in a gubernatorial race with more than 10 candidates, including Lou Barletta of Hazleton, and counting, anything is possible.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.