Doug Mastriano, the Pennsylvania Republican state senator known for his ties to right-wing extremists and his involvement in former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 election results, announced on Thursday evening that he will not be running for the U.S. Senate, despite having hinted for weeks that he was about to launch his campaign.
Mastriano made the surprise announcement with his wife, Rebbie, during a Facebook Live video.
“At this time, we have decided not to run for the U.S. Senate but to continue to serve in Harrisburg,” Mastriano said, referring to the state capital. “So I know for some that will be disappointing, for others it won’t be disappointing because you’re like, ‘Who’s going to fill his seat?’ you know, ‘Who’s gonna be our voice in Harrisburg?’”
Mastriano added that he would support whoever becomes the GOP nominee for the Senate seat “because I don’t want any other Republican candidates to go through what we went through last year when our own party betrayed us” — a reference to his belief that the party didn’t adequately support him during his run for Pennsylvania governor.
Mastriano had previously suggested he would enter the 2024 race, despite worries from fellow Republicans that his candidacy could torpedo the party’s chances of winning control of the U.S. Senate. Those concerns stemmed largely from Mastriano’s poor performance in the gubernatorial election last year, which he lost to Democrat Josh Shapiro by roughly 800,000 votes.
His surprise announcement Thursday is likely music to the ears of Republicans across the country.
Senate Republicans, per a recent report in Politico, had seen Mastriano as unelectable and hoped to back Dave McCormick in the state’s primary. McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO, ran in the GOP primary for Senate last year, narrowly losing to television personality Mehmet Oz.
Even Trump — who endorsed Mastriano during the 2022 Republican primary for governor — had reportedly expressed private concerns that having Mastriano’s name on the 2024 ticket could harm the former president’s chances of winning back the White House.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Russ Diamond posted a 14-tweet thread earlier this week imploring others not to back Mastriano.
“Today I’m calling on all level-headed PA Republicans to join me in requesting that Doug Mastriano abandon any plans he may have to run for US Senate in 2024,” he wrote.
Diamond also shared a screenshot of a text message he’d apparently sent to Mastriano last month.
“Your appearance at the top of the Republican ticket last year undoubtedly contributed to Republicans losing the majority in the PA House,” the text message says. “And I fear a repeat of that in 2024, as nothing in the state has changed to mitigate that impact.”
Mastriano had brushed aside such concerns in an interview with reporters earlier this week.
“Of any of the detractors, none have had the cojones to look me in the eye and have a conversation,” he said, according to PennLive. “It’s just behind a keyboard.”
Mastriano went on to call the criticism “irrelevant.”
“It’s the tree falling in the forest, nobody hears it,” he said.
A March survey conducted by Public Policy Polling showed Mastriano leading McCormick by as many as 18 percentage points in a prospective primary matchup. A Franklin & Marshall College poll from April, however, showed Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Casey leading Mastriano by 16 points in a general election contest.
Mastriano first emerged as a national figure in 2020, when he attempted to pass a resolution in Pennsylvania’s state Senate to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the key presidential battleground state and hand the election to Trump.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Mastriano organized buses in Pennsylvania to send his supporters to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., which eventually turned into an attack on the U.S. Capitol. During the insurrection, Mastriano was spotted marching near the Capitol steps as rioters ran past police barricades.
He later gave a deposition to a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
While seeking the governorship in 2022, Mastriano led an insular campaign that was hostile to the mainstream media. His Democratic opponent, Shapiro, often pointed to Mastriano’s unpopular positions on issues like abortion — which the Republican wanted to ban without exceptions for rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother.
Shapiro also highlighted the Mastriano campaign’s extensive ties to right-wing extremism, such as its paid consultant fees to a social media platform helmed by a racist antisemite; the hiring of a man with militia group ties as a security guard; and appearances by Mastriano at events hosted by believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Mastriano, who frequently invokes his apocalyptic Christian faith, also appeared alongside and sought counsel from self-declared “prophets” like campaign manager Vishal Jetnarayan, who has said that he speaks directly to God.
Julie Green, another “prophet,” frequently appeared on the campaign trail with Mastriano, once introducing him at a QAnon event in Gettysburg by reciting a message she claimed to receive from on high.
“Yes, Doug, I am here for you, and I have not forsaken you,” Green said, reading the supposed message from God. “The time has come for their great fall and the great steal to be overturned. So keep your faith in me.”