Mary Jacobs and Susan Curley of Montgomery County outside a campaign rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. Curley said she supports Mastriano because of his religious beliefs. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)
Supporters attending Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s campaign events in suburban Philadelphia this week said his campaign messages hit home.
But a poll of registered Pennsylvania voters released Thursday shows Mastriano trailing Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro among undecided voters and in support from members of his own party.
A supporter who attended Wednesday’s event in Pennsburg said he’s concerned that Mastriano isn’t doing enough to reach out to those who already agree with his staunchly conservative platform.
“I’d like to see him talk to more than just Republicans,” said the Montgomery County resident, who asked not to be identified by his first name, Bob, because he was concerned that expressing his political views could affect his professional relationships.
“If he doesn’t get out and talk to more people in Pennsylvania, he’s going to have a hard time,” Bob said.
Mastriano has largely distanced himself from local print, digital and television news, preferring to appear on conservative radio and in far-right sources like Brietbart.
“He already has these people,” said Marianne, Bob’s mother, who also asked not to be named. “So he has to go out and get independents and even some Democrats.”
The The Franklin and Marshall College poll was released Thursday shows Shapiro leading Mastriano 44 percent to 33 percent. Shapiro also leads Mastriano among undecided voters, 40 percent to 24 percent, according to the poll, which includes responses from 522 registered voters.
Shapiro is supported by 76 percent of Democrats polled, compared to 66 percent of Republicans who support Mastriano.
He has speech stump Mastriano spent much of his time on Wednesday painting Shapiro and outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf as “extreme” on policies including pandemic restrictions on businesses and mask requirements for students.
Mastriano has also touted major policies to expand Pennsylvania’s fossil fuel extraction, repeal limits on greenhouse gas emissions, allow parents to choose where to send their children to school at the expense of taxes, and ban a number of hot-button conservative topics from public school curricula.
But some supporters have cited Mastriano’s evangelical Christian values as the main reason they see him as an attractive candidate.
Susan Curley, a retired teacher from Pennsburg, said she thinks Mastriano is the right candidate because “he’s a believer in Jesus Christ.”
“We need a person who believes in Christ as the head of state government,” Curley said.
Curley cited LGBTQ issues in schools and abortion as top issues where faith should play a role in state government.
Todd Johnson, the Republican candidate for Philadelphia’s 4th Senate District, also said Mastriano’s values send the right message to him as a pastor.
“I like his position on biblical issues. He’s pro-life,” Johnson said after an event in Montgomery County in Mastriano. “I believe that at the moment of conception it is life.”
Mastriano, who opposes access to abortion, once made abortion his No. 1 issue, introducing a proposal to ban abortions after six weeks, which is before most people find out they’re pregnant.
After the primaries and the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Mastriano was largely silent on the topic in campaign speeches.
The Franklin and Marshall survey included questions about respondents’ views on abortion. The results show a shift from May. The number of people who believe abortion should be legal under all circumstances rose by 6 points to 37 percent, while those in favor of a total ban fell from 14 percent to 11 percent. More than half say abortion should be legal with some restrictions.
Some Mastriano supporters who attended Wednesday’s events said they did not support abortion rights but would support some exceptions to the ban.
“Mother’s life would be the only exception I would make. Because you can’t say one life is more important than another,” said Curley, a retired teacher.
Helen Andersen of Macunga, Lehigh County, said she only objects to state-sponsored abortions, which are already prohibited by Pennsylvania law, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.
Andersen added that she believes people should avoid having to have an abortion after seeing the effect it has on her friends’ mental well-being.
“It’s not good for a woman. I know. Psychologically, it’s very, very bad,” Andersen said.