This story originally appeared on WITF.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano will have to fend off attacks from many Democratic groups on the way to November and he can now add a GOP-backed political action committee to the list.
Coming just days after nine Pennsylvania Republican leaders endorsed Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, a group of centrist Republicans with deep roots in state government and politics have formed a PAC opposing Mastriano, a state senator from Franklin County.
“There’s a long history of Pennsylvania Republicans being from what I guess people call the moderate part of the party,” said Craig Snyder, the architect of Republicans4Shapiro and a former chief of staff for the late centrist Republican U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.
“All of a sudden, we have a nominee that is really far outside of that history, really far outside of that norm,” Snyder told PennLive.
“I’m not here to praise Shapiro. I’m also not here to criticize Shapiro. I think Shapiro would be an effective, mainstream governor of Pennsylvania, but do I think he’s the new Abraham Lincoln? No,” Snyder said. “The real issue is stopping an unacceptable choice, which is Mastriano.”
Snyder, who briefly ran for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination, has brought on former GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Greenwood of Bucks County as chairman of Republicans4Shapiro, which is seeking 30-second videos from like-minded Republicans explaining their opposition to Mastriano to be part of online ads.
“What we’re going to do is really tightly target the persuadable Republican and independent voters,” Snyder said. “We’re going to say, ‘There’s this one thing that is unacceptable and here’s why.’”
Greenwood spearheaded a similar effort in 2020 to oppose former President Donald Trump and he was also one of the nine Republicans who publicly endorsed Shapiro last week.
“Donald Trump and Mastriano are way beyond what the Republican Party is supposed to stand for,” said Greenwood, who called Shapiro “a sane, commonsense, well-thought of public servant.”
Greenwood said he will be hosting a fundraiser for Shapiro in September that he hopes will raise $100,000.
Former acting Pennsylvania Attorney General Walter Cohen and his wife, Susan, the former executive director of the state House Joint Bipartisan Committee, are involved in the PAC and have already co-hosted a fundraiser that raised $80,000 for Shapiro in Carlisle.
Other members of Republicans4Shapiro listed on its website include former Murray Dickman, Secretary of Administration under former Republican Gov. Dick Thornburgh and an official at the U.S. Department of Justice under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush; Bob Wilburn, a former secretary of education, and budget and administration under Thornburgh; former state legislator, Common Pleas judge and Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler; George Grode, who served as state insurance commission under Thornburgh; former state senator and Lt. Gov. Bob Jubelirer; James Seif, the former secretary of environmental protection under former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge; and Joe Conti, a former state House and Senate member; and Republican fundraiser Bill Sasso.
Snyder said the PAC has also brought on board fundraiser Ann Herberger, who raised millions for Jeb Bush in his unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid.
Cohen, who’s known Shapiro for nearly 20 years and steered his transition team after he was elected in 2016, said Mastriano “talks like a lunatic” and is “a danger to this state and to this country.”
The Republicans involved pointed to several of Mastriano’s far-right stances in explaining their efforts, including Mastriano’s:
- Opposition to abortion without exceptions
- Attendance at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol
- Lingering insistence that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and that there was widespread election fraud in Pennsylvania that helped President Joe Biden win.
“His view of the 2020 election is false,” Snyder said. “It was not a stolen election.”
Snyder warned that Mastriano, if elected governor, would appoint the secretary of state to oversee elections and that could lead to chaos in the 2024 presidential election with Pennsylvania being a vital swing state.
“He has shown us that he doesn’t care about how the votes come out unless they go his way and that’s not democracy,” Snyder said.
“If you can’t say that Biden carried Pennsylvania there’s something wrong with you. You are a stranger to truth,” said Greenwood, who added that Mastriano’s anti-abortion stance is another key factor for him.
And, Snyder said Mastriano is riding a “toxic mixture of religion and politics” that crosses a long-accepted line. “We’ve got to stop him, and I think he can be stopped,” Snyder said.
Snyder also said that a fraction of registered Republicans voted in the primary for governor and the seven-candidate field favored a candidate such as Mastriano with a devoted and driven base.
However, the landscape will be different in a general election, he said.
“The overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania Republicans did not cast a vote for Mastriano,” said Snyder. “They don’t have to follow this excited part of the electorate off the cliff. They have a choice.”