Mastriano and Oz: An ‘awkward marriage’ atop the Pennsylvania GOP ticket

The two candidates have done little to promote each other as they gear up for the fall. Some officials say they should keep it that way.

Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz, the GOP’s nominees in Pennsylvania for governor and the Senate respectively, share little in common other than the support of former President Donald Trump.

They’re otherwise poised to go their separate ways this fall, and that’s what some state Republicans believe is best.

“I think they should keep separate,” said Lou Capozzi, the chairman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee. “They have different messages. There’s some people who are going to be receptive to Doug’s message. And hopefully, they’ll vote for him. And there’s going to be people that are receptive to Oz’s message. And there may be some crossover.”

Mastriano, a state senator most prominently known for having been outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and for having been intimately involved in an effort to appoint fake electors to stop President Joe Biden from taking office, has sought to quell concerns among the state’s GOP establishment that he is too far to the right to win this fall. Oz, a celebrity TV doctor who faced scrutiny from hard-line conservatives for past comments about abortion and transgender youths, has tried to shore up his standing with the right-wing base while building inroads among independent voters.

The efforts have been on parallel tracks. Mastriano and Oz haven’t made any firm commitments to campaign together or host joint fundraisers. Although they have appeared at the same state party functions or at events put on by outside groups, they have done little to promote each other — Mastriano’s posting of photos on Twitter and Facebook of the two at the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police convention in Erie this month was a notable exception.

Trump-backed tickets in other areas have converged. In Arizona, Kari Lake, Trump’s pick for governor, and Blake Masters, his Senate choice, campaigned together on the eve of the primary. In Michigan, Matt DePerno, Trump’s preferred candidate for attorney general, joined Tudor Dixon, his choice for governor, on the campaign trail hours after he endorsed her late last month.

“It’s an awkward marriage,” said Morgan Boyd, a Republican commissioner in Lawrence County, which went for Trump by 30 points in 2020.

At a rally Friday, Mastriano continued to question the results of the 2020 election. “If you ask questions about the 2020 election, you’re an election denier,” he said, the Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh reported. “Are you serious? What a stupid thing to say.”

Boyd endorsed state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mastriano’s Democratic opponent, but he is voting for Oz and other Republicans on the November ballot. He criticized Mastriano as “pushing more hard-line, hard-core social issues” that he says are “outside the mainstream” while crediting Oz for a sharper focus on the economy, immigration and health care.

“I think that Dr. Oz’s base is very different from Doug Mastriano’s base,” Boyd said. “I think it would be difficult for the two campaigns to reconcile and get on the same policy message when you have two very different groups of voters supporting them.”

While Mastriano and Oz have yet to join forces, their Democratic rivals have linked up for a coordinated effort backed by the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, The Associated Press reported in June.

The effort will help finance a ground game to register and persuade voters for Shapiro and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate nominee, who hosted his first public campaign event Friday after having suffered a stroke in May.

Surveys have consistently shown Mastriano and Oz trailing their Democratic rivals. A Fox News poll last month showed Mastriano trailing by 10 points, while Oz was behind by 11.

Mastriano’s attacks on Oz during the primary could complicate efforts to link up. In March, he criticized Oz to a radio host for his ties to Oprah Winfrey and “the Hollywood class,” as well as for his recent move to Pennsylvania.

“We have tapes of him, you know, approving of abortion. Suddenly, he’s pro-life now because [of] his Republican primary. We have video of him encouraging, you know, changing your gender and all this kind of stuff,” he said. “And so I just, you know, something’s wrong.”

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