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At Delco bar, Doug Mastriano pledges to make Pennsylvania the ‘Florida of the north’

The Republican gubernatorial candidate was introduced to a rowdy crowd in Aston by a former GOP primary rival. He did not answer any questions from the press.

Pa. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican nominee for governor, speaks to supporters in Gatsby's Bar & Grill in Aston on Wednesday.
Pa. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican nominee for governor, speaks to supporters in Gatsby's Bar & Grill in Aston on Wednesday.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

Doug Mastriano rolled into Delaware County on Wednesday as part of his Pennsylvania bus tour — then rolled out again without answering questions.

The Republican nominee for governor was greeted by a rowdy crowd that packed Gatsby’s Bar & Grill in Aston. Most reporters were kept far away from the candidate.

Outside, a cargo truck pulled up outfitted with two makeshift flamethrowers and signs referencing a “rigged” 2020 election, and a bearded man ran through the parking lot waving a gigantic American flag and shouted, “Let’s go, Brandon!” — a chant that stands in for “f— Joe Biden.”

» READ MORE: ‘Never, ever surrender to woke ideology’: Ron DeSantis rallies with Doug Mastriano in Pittsburgh

A few dozen supporters of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro who gathered near the street were not warmly received by the Mastriano supporters as they waited for the candidate to arrive.

“Good for them,” one man muttered. “Let me get a hand grenade.”

Inside the sports bar, Mastriano and his wife, Rebbie, were introduced by Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman who had run against the nominee in the nine-way GOP primary.

“This is the time to come together, to unite,” White said. “If you believe in economic development, in tapping our resources, in making Pennsylvania the energy capital of the United States, join this team.”

Mastriano, fresh off last week’s appearance with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, received particularly loud applause when he pledged to make Pennsylvania “the Florida of the North.”

» READ MORE: 3 big takeaways from Ron DeSantis’ Pennsylvania rally for Doug Mastriano

He delivered a 35-minute speech in which he vowed to create jobs, end vaccine and mask mandates, and promote school choice. He also said he would implement a ban on trans athletes and the teaching of so-called critical race theory in schools.

“Pennsylvania, we’re truly at a crossroads between Wolf and Shapiro tyranny and government control or, under Mastriano, freedom and liberty,” Mastriano said, adding: “We’re going to turn the course on our nation by turning our state around and by once again being the natural leader of this nation. So, although it’s dark right now, I see a bright future.”

Mastriano, a state senator for south-central Pennsylvania, also criticized Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, and blamed him for an increase in violent crime in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

“The senior law enforcement official of the state wants to become governor? Are you freaking kidding me?” Mastriano said. “This guy’s incompetent. We have to throw the bum out.”

Mastriano did not field any questions from the media, using a security team to insulate himself from reporters covering the race as he tours the state.

The Shapiro campaign used Mastriano’s silence to poke fun at the bus tour, calling it the “no comment express,” and noting that Mastriano’s aides have physically blocked journalists from interviewing him. Outside the bar, the Democrat’s supporters held signs supporting abortion rights, public education, and marriage equality.

While most of the speech prompted roars of approval, that wasn’t the case when Mastriano referenced a debunked claim about New York billionaire George Soros working for the Nazis during World War II.

“Our opponent is very well-funded, with all kinds of dark money, even Soros money, I saw,” Mastriano said. “That guy has an interesting past. ... I saw an interesting picture of him turning in countrymen. Disgusting.”

That was met with a moment of awkward silence.

Mastriano has previously made such comments about Soros, and they have been criticized as antisemitic. Soros, who was 13 at the time, has said he posed as the godson of a Christian government official to avoid being sent to a concentration camp. He told 60 Minutes in 1998 that he sometimes accompanied that official on trips where Jewish properties were cataloged for seizure.

Shapiro, who is Jewish, received donations from Soros in 2016 and 2020, but not recently.

» READ MORE: Doug Mastriano’s comments on Islam and climate change resurface

Mastriano, who had sought to assist former President Donald Trump in overturning the results of the 2020 election, urged his supporters to sign up as poll watchers for the November general election.

Cynthia June Long, already a poll worker in Upper Darby, left the event holding several Mastriano yard signs. She supports his call to end mail-in voting, and to implement new voting restrictions in Pennsylvania.

“There needs to be tighter oversight of elections,” Long said.

Rich Pruett, whose wife, Dasha, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2020, said of Mastriano, a retired Army colonel: “He represents the American dream. He served, he fought for us. He’s a true patriot.”

» READ MORE: A deep dive into Doug Mastriano and Josh Shapiro's records on abortion

Pruett, who rolled up his sleeve to reveal a “MAGA” tattoo, said he also likes Mastriano because of his ties to Trump, and the fact that the former president endorsed him. He believes, though, Mastriano should tone down some of his right-wing views — especially his proposed no-exceptions abortion ban — to appeal to moderate Republicans and independents in the Philadelphia suburbs.

“I think he’s done a decent job at that, but can do better,” Pruett said. “We’ll see what happens.”

During his speech, Mastriano, who has previously described abortion as “the most important issue of our lifetime,” did not mention legislation he had introduced that would ban abortion after about six weeks’ gestation.

Staff writer Chris Brennan contributed to this article