Fight him, avoid him… embrace him? Mastriano’s relationship with Republican Party leaders reflects Trump’s rise.

In an election season in which inflation and rising gas prices have given most Republicans an advantage, Mastriano has spent the past few weeks under criticism for his ties to the far-right social media platform. He had an account this year on Gab, the site where Robert Powers made violent anti-Semitic comments before the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting. Mastriano also told Gab CEO Andrew Torba in an interview, “Thank God for what you’ve done,” and paid the site $5,000 for “consulting” services.

“People who weren’t happy with his nomination — that’s why,” said Josh Nowotny, a Pennsylvania Republican Party adviser. Because he’s like, ‘When are the other shoes going to drop too?’ What else is there?’ It’s what I think more people are saying and thinking.”

The response to the episode within the Republican Party took on the character of Trump. Some party insiders grumble about what they see as the unchecked Mastariano’s fault, largely private, and very few Republican candidates in competitive constituencies are turning away from it. But most Republican Party leaders seem, at least publicly, to stick with Mastriano.

“The guy spent $5,000 — $5,000 — to consult or try to advertise on a social media platform. How much does Josh Shapiro spend on Twitter, or how much does Josh Shapiro spend on Facebook, which has been used by a number of killers lately?” said Sam DeMarco, Republican Party leader at Allegheny County, one of the most populous areas in the state. “I thought Senator. Mastriano did the right thing and said, ‘Hey, these people aren’t talking for me.'”

Although state Republican officials did not abandon him in the race against Democratic governor candidate Josh Shapiro, Mastariano was forced to try to contain the fallout from the Gap controversy. Torba, CEO of Gab, made anti-Semitic comments and said that “his policy is not to interview non-Christian reporters or non-Christian media, and Doug has a very similar media strategy where he does not interview these people.”

In response, Mastariano said in a statement on Twitter that Torba “does not speak for me” and that I “reject anti-Semitism in any form”. Apparently he deleted his Gab account.

Mastriano also discussed this issue on his last campaign stop and In a discreet program on YouTube. “We need a level playing field here. ADL… They said Twitter in one year had 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets. Well, I am calling on my opponent Josh Shapiro to ditch Twitter and get off Twitter,” he told Chris White.

(In a statement to this story, Shapiro spokesperson Will Simmons said, “Mastriano’s warm embrace of extremists like Andrew Torba, Three Percent, and Canon is further evidence that he is too dangerous to be governor of Pennsylvania.”)

Mastriano also cleaned up behind the scenes. At a fundraiser for a Philadelphia governor candidate last Wednesday in suburban Philadelphia, Mastriano spoke about the reporting on Gabe, said Andy Riley, the Republican National Committee member who hosted the event.

“He single-handedly, on the spot, early in his comments, denounced anti-Semitism, said what he believed, and said he had been in the military all his life and worked with people of all faiths, a firm believer in protecting people’s religions and even protecting atheists from having no faith.” Riley said. “Being 30 years in the military, you will never survive if you have such hateful beliefs.”

Although some wish he condemned Gap more quickly and forcefully, Mastariano’s efforts appear to have prevented any major defections from his party thus far. Last Thursday, Mastriano met privately with members of the Pennsylvania State Congress in Washington, DC. The statement about Gap was published hours later, then this week it announced that all but one of the nine members of the House of Representatives are from the state.

“Pennsylvania families are struggling to put gas in their cars and food on their tables,” they said in a joint statement. “The progressive policies backed by Joe Biden and Josh Shapiro have led to fewer jobs, higher crime rates, drug addiction, and less freedom for hard-working Pennsylvania families.”

Christopher Nicholas, a longtime GOP adviser based in Pennsylvania, said the controversy over Gabb hasn’t stopped Republicans from allying behind Mastriano in the post-primaries.

“People who are aware of Gap’s things are people who will never support Mastriano, and that was a reason not to. 217,” adding that although Mastriano took some time to make his statement about Gap, it was a “good” response.

Riley said the reaction among Republicans was “just because he used it to advertise doesn’t mean he embraced the views” and “nobody came to me complaining about them.”

Blake Marlis, president of the Central Northeastern Republican Alliance in Pennsylvania, said, “I have no idea Doug’s history with various racial or ethnic groups as a captain in the military. I can’t imagine they would be passive in any way or that he wouldn’t become a colonel.” .

He called Torba “anti-Semitism” and said Mastriano had made a “political mistake, but I don’t know if it was a scientific mistake.”

To the extent that Republicans express their frustration with Mastriano’s ties to Gap, so far this is happening largely behind closed doors, rather than in public accusations. Some GOP insiders said the incident was exactly the kind of thing they feared would happen when they opposed it in the primaries. Others have even compared it to being forced to respond constantly to Trump’s explosive comments.

“It just shook my head,” said a Republican Pennsylvania county chief who asked not to be named to speak frankly. “Does he really want to win this?”

One GOP activist who has publicly spoken out his concerns is Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Last month, Mastriano urged “to end his relationship with Gap, a social network that American Jews rightly view as a hotbed of bigotry and anti-Semitism.”

A few Republican elected officials in the swing counties also kept Mastariano at arm’s length. State representative. Todd Stevens, who represents parts of the temperate suburbs of Philadelphia, posted on Facebook that the Gab CEO “made disgusting and anti-Semitic comments” and “[n]Anything less than a complete refusal is justified.”

Another Republican in the Philadelphia suburbs, Rep. Brian FitzpatrickIt was the state’s only Republican party A member of the House of Representatives who did not support Mastriano. He did not attend the meeting with him last week either, according to multiple sources, although a staff member did.

Nancy McCarty, a spokeswoman for Fitzpatrick, said he was “attending an intelligence meeting” at the time and “has not yet met and/or spoken with Senator Mastriano regarding his plan for Pennsylvania, but he hopes to have the opportunity to do so before the fall election.”

Senator. Pat Tommy (R-Pen), who will retire this year, did not say whether he supported Mastriano. In 2016, Tommy declined to reveal whether he would support Trump until Election Day, when he announced he had voted for him.

The Mastriano campaign, which has refused to engage with most mainstream media, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mastriano is part of a small but growing group of Republican candidates and elected officials associated with Gap or its founder, Torba.

Kathy Barnett, who finished third in the 2022 Pennsylvania Republican primary and often campaigned with Mastriano, spent at least $3,000 on “online services.” re \ come back. Majorie Taylor GreenR-Ga.’s (R-Ga.) campaign paid out at least $36,000 last year for “digital marketing.”

Perhaps most notable after Mastriano is Mark Fenchem, Arizona Representative and 2020 election conspiracy theorist who secured the Republican nomination for Secretary of State on Tuesday. Finchem, who has an active Gab account under the name “AZHoneyBadger”, proudly promotes Torba’s endorsement on his campaign site.

Finchim was part of a slate of Arizona candidates that Torba said he supported, including state legislator Wendy Rogers, who was censored by the Senate after she spoke of hanging “traitors” from the gallows at a white national convention. Rogers, who was endorsed by Mastriano, also won the primaries on Tuesday.

But for the other candidates on that list, Torba was a bridge too far. A spokesperson for Carrie Lake, the former TV anchor who Trump endorsed in the conservative race very close to the call, told the Arizona Mirror that “ [campaign] Totally condemns bigotry in all its forms, especially anti-Semitism. We never asked for that endorsement.” (Lake has an account on the Gap site, but hasn’t posted on it since early January.)

“I’ve never heard of this guy and I refuse to support him,” Blake Masters, the Republican candidate for the Arizona Senate, said in a statement to the Mirror, saying that the only people who cared about endorsing him were the media because he was “nobody.”

Zach Montellaro contributed to this report.

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