How a Trump ally rode Trump’s election fraud lie to political prominence

“The hardcore base – Mastriano plays along,” said Carl Fogliani, a Republican strategist from Pittsburgh. “He has a following among the core activists and he’s trying to grow it.”

Mastriano was a little-known senator from central Pennsylvania until last year and began building a following among conservative grassroots activists ahead of the November elections for criticizing coronavirus-related restrictions.

Lowman Henry, president of the Pennsylvania Leadership Council, which organizes a state gathering of conservative activists, said he was “ahead of the curve” of other politicians on this issue.

After the election, Henry said, “As is his typical fashion, he got on the horse and also led the indictment on the issue of electoral fraud, which only in my opinion added to his shine with the Trump base which is very large in Pennsylvania, contributed. ”

In the months after the election. Mastriano built a national profile for himself starting with his role in organizing a post-election hearing in Gettysburg that turned out to be a spectacle with Giuliani and a phone call from Trump. Since then, his fingerprints have been everywhere in the efforts of Trump and his allies to undermine the November election results. He was present in Washington on January 6th, the day of the United States Capitol Riots. He recently visited Arizona to observe the ballot review. And he urged a review of the ballot papers elsewhere, also in Fulton County, a rural county easily won by Trump near Mastrianos District.

Al Schmidt, a Republican electoral commissioner in Philadelphia, who pilloried by Trump and his supporters for refusing to capitulate to unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud, recalled that Mastriano was “quite vocal” during the presidential campaign but mostly viewed him as “a state senator from somewhere else in Pennsylvania”.

He said, “It is actually difficult to articulate what is going on because it is so completely detached from reality and that was that the choice was free and fair and not even scarce.”

Mastriano’s efforts have produced no evidence of widespread electoral fraud, but they have given him an influence on a likely candidacy for governor. He met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York in May, and CNN is now track him down at events in his home country. Mastriano said Trump himself did encouraged him to run for governor.

“Would anyone have known Mastriano’s name from within 80 kilometers of his district a year ago?” Said David Becker, managing director of the non-partisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, lamented what he called “a large segment of crooks who want to make money” over baseless allegations of electoral fraud. “And now he can probably raise funds across the country by collecting his name and connections to Trump.”

It is possible that Mastriano is making too much of his connection with Trump and annoying some in the Trump world. After Mastriano said in a radio interview last month that the former president asked him to run for governor, Jason Miller, a Trump adviser, said said on twitter that Trump “has not yet made any approvals or commitments in this race”.

When Mastriano and two other Pennsylvania MPs later traveled to Arizona, Trump announced the “great patriots” led by Mastriano. That kind of statement – if repurposed on a mailer – could be important in a Pennsylvania Republican area code next year.

Mastriano, who did not respond to a request for comment, said he was still considering whether he should run for governor, but he is widely expected. The Republican primary becomes likely overfilled, including former Rep. Lou Barletta and possibly Rep. Dan Meuser and former US attorney Bill McSwain.

“I think he probably has a pretty low cap on the percentage of the primary electorate he can reach, which he’s probably trying to raise now in relation to Arizona and everything else to be the Trumpiest in the world Trumpers” said Joshua Novotney, a Republican lobbyist and former advisor to Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Given his relatively low profile, even after campaigning, Novotney said, “I don’t think he’s going to impress too many donors.”

He said, “A lot of Trump supporters are trying to go on and win races … even when they feel like things have been stolen.”

Even so, the fact that Mastriano is involved is a far from 2018 when he didn’t even get out of a congressional primary, Fourth in the running for an open seat in a solid Republican district in southern Pennsylvania.

Today the retired Army Colonel is one of the most prominent examples of a career-building class of politicians, no doubt the November election results that both benefit and empower Trump’s lie – widespread position among Republican voters – that the election was rigged.

Across the country, several Republicans who supported Trump’s allegations of electoral fraud are running to become secretary of state. Earlier this week, Wren Williams, an attorney who represented Trump at recounts in Wisconsin, dropped a longtime Republican in a state house primary in Virginia.

“[Mastriano] has absolutely the correct idea that we still don’t have a full stock of what happened in the 2020 election, ”said Bruce Marks, a Republican attorney who worked for the Trump campaign and met with Mastriano last month. “I think he’s absolutely on the right track.”

Marks, a former Pennsylvania legislature who only after a Court determined In 1994, that widespread electoral fraud had led to the apparent victory of his Democratic opponent, he said he met with Mastriano to share the details of the case – a rally for Republicans who insist that the presidential election is still overturned can.

Not long after the meeting, Mastriano invoked the case at a rally in Harrisburg.

“I wish it was like 1994,” Mastriano said, hinting that the media had done a “fantastic job” of finding fraud that year. In the same speech, Mastriano compared the November elections unfavorably to elections in “war-torn Kosovo”, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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