Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Doug Mastriano won’t say whom he’s picked to run Pa. elections — but we’ve got a good guess

The Republican nominee for governor says that he's picked a secretary of state, and that his choice is a woman. But he won't say who it is. We look at the clues.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, now the Republican nominee for governor, in Harrisburg last year.
Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, now the Republican nominee for governor, in Harrisburg last year.Read morePaul Weaver / MCT

Doug Mastriano has told us two things about elections in Pennsylvania if the Republican state senator is elected governor.

One, he has already picked a secretary of state, the person who oversees elections. And two, she’s a woman.

That’s it. That’s all Mastriano, the Franklin County election denier who mostly limits his media interaction to fawning conservative podcasters and radio hosts, will disclose.

Just those two factors make a circumstantial case that his pick could be Toni Shuppe, the Beaver County activist who cofounded Audit the Vote PA and shares Mastriano’s penchant for spreading misinformation about the 2020 election.

Shuppe also shares Mastriano’s disdain for answering questions, telling Clout that The Inquirer is too biased to talk to when asked if Mastriano offered her the job.

» READ MORE: A look at Doug Mastriano’s ties to Jan. 6 and his efforts to throw out Pa.’s 2020 election

Shuppe spoke during Mastriano’s campaign kickoff in January, casting one-term President Donald Trump as “the legitimate winner” in 2020, while warning that this year’s election is in danger of being stolen.

And Shuppe, just three weeks after that, volunteered for the job while appearing on a podcast called The Cannabis Conservative.

Asked about her future, Shuppe described herself as “a free agent right now” and then pondered, “What if we get a Republican governor who has me work on election integrity, perhaps as secretary of the commonwealth?”

Shuppe also wondered if the Republican-controlled state Senate would confirm her to the post, adding, “I haven’t made a lot of friends there.”

She also shares Mastriano’s disdain for Act 77, the 2019 law that greatly expanded mail voting. Mastriano, part of the Republican majority that voted for the law, later denounced the way it was implemented, while Trump falsely claimed it would cause widespread voter fraud.

The state Supreme Court this week upheld the law, rejecting a legal challenge from Republican legislators. Mastriano has said he would repeal it.

» READ MORE: Pa. GOP leaders once spurned Doug Mastriano. Now they’re giving him a ‘second look’ and fund-raising support.

Trump, who endorsed Mastriano, has been pushing for secretaries of state who back his stolen election lies, with an eye toward another presidential run in 2024. Shuppe’s page on the controversial social media site Gab shows her meeting twice with Trump.

Shuppe hosts a weekly internet show that traffics in hard-right claims that President Joe Biden is controlled by the Chinese government, calls for the state to ban electronic voting machines, and complains that the Republican Party won’t push to decertify the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania.

During a show last week, she acknowledged that some Republicans don’t care much for Mastriano. She painted the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, as a harbinger of both “communism and socialism,” while reaching out to people she described as “politically homeless.”

“You’re voting against that more so than you’re voting for Doug Mastriano,” she said.

Shapiro spokesperson Will Simons noted that Mastriano has threatened to have his secretary of state decertify every voting machine in the state.

Simons said Shapiro is “focused on winning this race before making any decisions” about whom to appoint.

Mastriano wins U.S. House support — mostly

Eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Republican members of the U.S. House endorsed Mastriano on Monday, after he met with most of the delegation in Washington last week.

The holdout was Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the Bucks County Republican who did not attend the meeting and still hasn’t met with Mastriano.

A Fitzpatrick spokesperson said he is “open to hearing from him prior to the Fall elections.”

Mastriano is trying to present an image of GOP unity in response to a pair of Republican-led super PACs that have declared him unacceptable for the job.

This isn’t the first time Fitzpatrick, who casts himself as a moderate, has held off on backing a controversial candidate from his own party. He has endorsed Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, who also has Trump’s endorsement.

But Fitzpatrick said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and refused to say if he would vote for him before the 2020 election. He later said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2020, after seeking to censure Trump but voting against impeaching him for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Mastriano attended Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and was later photographed near the steps of the Capitol, beyond police lines. He has been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol and denies any wrongdoing.

Bipartisan hypocrisy on Act 77

Let’s take a minute to appreciate how fluid political positions have been for the state’s sweeping rewrite of election law since 2019.

Many Democrats in the state House and Senate opposed the legislation because it eliminated a “straight-party” option that allowed voters to support all the candidates from one political party on the ballot with a single vote. The vast majority of Republicans supported the legislation.

Democrats now call the Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court’s upholding of the law a victory for voting rights after decrying a ruling in January from the Republican-controlled Commonwealth Court that struck down the law.

State Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia, chair of the state Democratic Party, voted against the measure in 2019 — and praised it as “bipartisan” when it was upheld this week.

Republicans, of course, decried this week’s ruling as politically motivated after hailing January’s ruling as righteous.

Mastriano chalked this week’s ruling up to the court’s “partisan loyalty.”

Shapiro, in his role as attorney general, said this week’s ruling “provided certainty to voters” after “consistent attacks on our election system.”

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.