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‘Mastriano is unacceptable’: A group of Pennsylvania Republicans is organizing to support Shapiro

First there were "Never Trumpers," Republicans who rejected former President Donald Trump and his controversies. Now come "Never Mastrianos," who feel the same way about the GOP nominee for governor.

Josh Shapiro speaks about the importance of defending abortion access in Pennsylvania on June 29.
Josh Shapiro speaks about the importance of defending abortion access in Pennsylvania on June 29.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

Call them “Never Mastrianos.”

A group of Pennsylvania Republicans with long records in government and politics will form a super PAC Wednesday to support state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, in a rejection of the GOP nominee, State Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Republicans for Shapiro will be chaired by former U.S. Rep. Jim Greenwood, a Bucks County Republican who in 2020 organized a similar effort to oppose then-President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term.

That comes as Shapiro is expected to announce Wednesday a “first wave of Republican endorsements,” including Greenwood.

A self-described Never Trumper, Greenwood rattled off a long list of reasons for his opposition to Mastriano in an interview with The Inquirer.

They include: Mastriano’s attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, his use of campaign funds to bus supporters to that event, his repeated claims of debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, his vow to ban all abortion in the state with no exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person, his opposition to gay marriage, and his comparison of gun-control measures to Nazism.

“I think he’s an extreme, dangerous guy who is out of touch with the majority of the people in Pennsylvania,” said Greenwood, who also expressed concern that Mastriano as governor could create a crisis in Pennsylvania’s election in 2024 if Trump seeks the presidency again.

Greenwood said he does not know Shapiro but has heard he is “a very bright, very thoughtful, mainstream man of good character.” He is hosting a fund-raiser for Shapiro in September and noted he raised $2 million in 2020 in a virtual fund-raiser for President Joe Biden.

» READ MORE: Josh Shapiro and Doug Mastriano’s records on abortion are long and drastically different

Shapiro is expected to also announce Republican endorsements from former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, who represented a Lehigh Valley district; former Montgomery County Republican Party chair Ken Davis; former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman of Montgomery County; former state House Speaker Denny O’Brien of Philadelphia; Lawrence County Commission Chair Morgan Boyd; and three more former state legislators.

Craig Snyder, a former chief of staff to the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, will run the political operation for Republicans for Shapiro. He said the group will reach out to Republicans who share concerns about Democratic politics and policies and might be caught up in a “red wave” of party enthusiasm during the midterm elections.

Snyder, who briefly ran for the U.S. Senate last year, hopes to persuade his party’s voters to split their ticket, supporting Shapiro while also voting for Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor who is now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

“Mastriano is unacceptable,” Snyder said. “You can withhold support from Mastriano without declaring yourself to be a progressive.”

The group’s founding members include veterans from the administrations of former Republican Govs. Dick Thornburgh and Tom Ridge, including Murray Dickman, George Grode, James Seif, Bob Wilburn, Walter Cohen, and former state legislators Joe Conti, David Heckler, and Bob Jubelirer.

Greenwood in 2020 organized 27 former Republican members of Congress — three senators and 24 representatives from 18 states — to back Biden on the first day of the Republican National Convention. He denounced Trump then as a “small-minded, uncaring, self-aggrandizing compulsive liar.”

Biden narrowly won Pennsylvania that year, prompting Trump to falsely claim the election was “rigged.” Early polling shows Mastriano neck-and-neck with Shapiro.

» READ MORE: Doug Mastriano is sticking to his MAGA playbook in the general election

Mastriano does not respond to requests for media interviews, sticking instead to campaigning through Facebook videos, conservative radio shows and podcasts, and direct outreach to supporters. On Friday, Mastriano emailed a fund-raising request, noting that Shapiro has “establishment support and corporate dollars pouring in” while he does not.

“With our primary now behind us, our campaign is ready to turn on our big guns, unite the GOP, and construct our surge between now and Election Day,” Mastriano wrote in that plea.

Snyder said the group will encourage Republicans to self-record videos explaining why they will reject Mastriano. Those will be folded into an effort to target like-minded voters for outreach.

“Donors get the idea of targeting 5% of the electorate because all of our elections are so damn close,” Snyder said. “If you can sway a small part of them, it can affect the outcome.”