Mastriano brings election denier onto Pa. governor campaign

State Sen. Doug Mastriano appears before supporters

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, gestures to the cheering crowd during his primary night election party in Chambersburg, Pa., May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor who has pushed Donald Trump’s election lies, said Monday that he had appointed Trump’s former campaign lawyer as a senior legal adviser to his own campaign.

The lawyer, Jenna Ellis, endorsed Mastriano in the state’s contested Republican primary, campaigned with Mastriano and hosted Mastriano on her podcast, where he once discussed how to overturn Trump’s defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Ellis, who also promoted Trump’s election lies, was with Mastriano the night he won his gubernatorial primary and, speaking on her podcast last month, said, “I like to say that Doug Mastriano is the Donald Trump of Pennsylvania.”

The decision to bring on Ellis indicates Mastriano, who was endorsed by Trump, has little interest in moderating his gubernatorial campaign ahead of the general election in Pennsylvania. If Mastriano were to win in the fall, he would shape how elections are conducted in the pivotal battleground state — where the governor appoints the secretary of state, who oversees how elections are run. Mastriano has pledged to take the extraordinary step of requiring people to “re-register” to vote — a move that flatly violates federal law, constitutional law scholars say — and decertifying certain voting machines.

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After the 2020 election, Mastriano, a state senator, spearheaded a state Senate hearing in Gettysburg in which witnesses — including Ellis and fellow Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani — aired false claims about mass voter fraud. Trump called into the hearing, as well.

In a statement Monday, Mastriano said Ellis’ “talent, experience and legal expertise” will help him defeat Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s two-term attorney general, in the Nov. 8 general election.

On Ellis’ podcast, Mastriano has talked about the search for evidence of election fraud, how to reverse Trump’s election loss and being in touch with a group including Ellis after the 2020 election.

“We spoke frequently, or texted,” Mastriano said. “I was asking you for advice and constitutional recommendations and, once again, anything that Jen and I or anyone else talked about was a legal, constitutional approach forward.”

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Last year, Mastriano claimed on a radio show that Trump had “asked me” to run for governor.

Besides promoting Trump’s lies about nonexistent, widespread voter fraud costing him the 2020 election, Mastriano was outside the U.S. Capitol when a mob of Trump supporters overran it during the deadly 2021 insurrection.

He later tried to bring an Arizona-style partisan election audit to Pennsylvania before he was stripped of his committee chairmanship over it in a dispute with Senate GOP leaders.

Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence the election was tainted. The former president’s allegations of fraud were also roundly rejected by courts, including by judges he appointed.

In February, Mastriano was subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol for his efforts to overturn Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania by letting lawmakers — instead of voters — award Pennsylvania’s presidential electors in Trump’s favor.

A lawyer for Mastriano said FBI agents have interviewed Mastriano. Mastriano told the FBI that he did not know anything about a planned insurrection or any coordination behind the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, the lawyer said.

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