Shapiro wins race for Pa. governor
HARRISBURG — Voters electing a new governor of Pennsylvania chose Tuesday between Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano, with the future of abortion rights on the line, as well as management of the 2024 presidential election in a swing state that is often decisive.
According to the Department of State, Shapiro earned 39,759 in Butler County and 2,362,458 in the state, and Mastriano earned 51,365 in Butler County and 1,881,233 in the state as of press time at 11:50 p.m. Tuesday.
Shapiro, the state's two-term elected attorney general, smashed Pennsylvania's campaign finance record in a powerhouse campaign in a year in which Democrats nationally faced headwinds, including high inflation.
The Associated Press determined a winner after midnight, though Shapiro declared victory in a speech at 11:30 p.m. Unofficial returns indicated he held a lead at that time.
Mastriano had not publicly conceded.
"Tonight, voters from Gen Z to our seniors, voters from all walks of life, have given me the honor of a lifetime, given me the chance to serve you as Pennsylvania's next governor," Shapiro told a cheering crowd of hundreds in his home of Montgomery County, in suburban Philadelphia.
Shapiro thanked his family and supporters and went on to tell the crowd that "real freedom won tonight" and "Democracy endured" in a race he characterized as a fight for the right to vote and the right to abortion.
Mastriano, a retired Army colonel and state senator, is a relative political novice who ran a hard-right campaign and refused for much of it to talk to mainstream news organizations, scuttling prospects for a debate with an independent moderator.
Polls suggested Shapiro was leading Mastriano, who drove off moderate voters by being a prominent ally in former President Donald Trump's effort to stay in power and marching to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, where he watched pro-Trump demonstrators attack police.
He struggled to raise money as he was hit with a deluge of Shapiro campaign ads but tried to counter it with an energetic campaign that relied on a passionate grassroots volunteer force and daily videos uploaded to Facebook to connect with followers.
They vied to succeed Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term and has endorsed Shapiro. The winner will likely share power with entrenched Republican majorities in the state Legislature.
A Shapiro victory would make him the first governor of Pennsylvania to be elected to succeed a member of his party since 1966.
Issues including the economy and abortion rights weighed heavily on voters.
Roughly 8 in 10 Pennsylvania voters say things in the country are moving in the wrong direction, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 3,100 voters in the state.
About half the state's voters say the economy and jobs are the most important issue facing the country, according to the survey. And about 8 in 10 voters rate the nation's economy as either not so good or poor.
The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade also played a role in most voters' decisions, with about 8 in 10 calling it a factor. Only about a quarter called it the single most important factor.
Most voters say they are confident ballots will be counted accurately, according to the survey, though 3 in 10 said they were either not too confident or not at all confident.
Meanwhile, close to 7 in 10 voters say they are very or somewhat concerned that Mastriano's views are too extreme. Only about 4 in 10 say they are concerned about Josh Shapiro's views being too extreme.
Mastriano, 58, used a hard-right platform to lock down the party's furthest-right voters, secure Trump's endorsement and win a crammed, nine-way primary election.
Shapiro, 49, a political force strong enough to clear the Democratic primary, came into the race as the all-time highest-vote getter in a single election in Pennsylvania, breaking the record in his 2020 reelection.
With no primary challenger to force him to the left on key issues, Shapiro took middle-of-the-road positions on policies around education funding, COVID-19 mitigation and energy.
Meanwhile, he endorsed Austin Davis, a state lawmaker, to be his running mate and, possibly, the first Black lieutenant governor in a state that has never elected a Black governor or U.S. senator.
In light of June's Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, Shapiro vowed to protect Pennsylvania's existing 24-week law. He also touted his office's fight in court to protect the state's 2020 election from Trump's efforts to overturn it.
Mastriano has said he supports a complete ban on abortion, with no exceptions, and had been a point person in Trump's drive to stay in power and spread his lies about a stolen election.
He dwelled on some national GOP talking points — blaming crime and inflation on Democrats — but he also spread conspiracy theories and took a hard line on cultural issues.
Those stances — as well as his actions on Jan. 6 — prompted some GOP officials to predict he was too extreme to win a general election in Pennsylvania.
Mastriano did more than any other candidate for governor in the U.S. to subvert the 2020 presidential election, and Democrats have accused him of preparing to subvert the next one from the governor's office with his pledges to decertify voting machines and make voters re-register.