• Doug Mastriano is a Republican running for governor in Pennsylvania.
  • In an interview on Monday, he said the overturning of Roe v. Wade would help his Democratic opponent.
  • Though an avowed opponent of abortion, Mastriano said the decision was a "distraction" from other issues.

Doug Mastriano won the Republican nomination for governor in Pennsylvania by leaning into the culture war, using his Facebook live streams to rail against vaccine requirements, "Critical Race Theory," and members of his own party who failed to embrace conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

But this avowed opponent of abortion — who welcomed last week's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade — is now trying to pivot conversations away from the question of reproductive rights, admitting that the issue is a boon to Democrats.

In an interview with Newsmax on Monday, Mastriano was asked to comment on footage of pro-choice protesters who were dispersed by police with tear gas outside the state capitol in Arizona. Mastriano, who himself was on the front lines between police and protesters at the US Capitol on January 6, per video from the day, praised law enforcement for quelling the civil unrest.

But the state senator also didn't really want to talk about it, he said, insisting that "it's all a distraction."

"The Democrats and their friends in the traditional media want us to focus on this, and now on the Roe v. Wade decision, instead of dealing with life," Mastriano told the right-wing news outlet. "And most people in this country are concerned about inflation, gas prices, food not on the shelves, baby formula, and just on and on. So this is all a distraction."

It wasn't a distraction when Mastriano was seeking the GOP nomination. In May, he said he opposed the right to terminate a pregnancy even if meant risking the death of a parent.

"That baby deserves a right to life, whether it was conceived in incest, or rape, or whether there's concerns otherwise for the mom," he told a reporter during a campaign stop.

On Monday, Mastriano did reiterate his support for eliminating the federal right to terminate a pregnancy, but he framed the issue more as an open-ended question for states now to resolve, declining to expand on his own position. He went on to concede that the issue will no doubt help his rival for the governorship, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

"I think my opponent will get a bump with the polls here the next few weeks, because [obviously] it's going to stir his base," Mastriano said. "But the reality is people are going to vote on the economy."

At a campaign event last week in Binghamton, New York, it was clear that even right-wing Republicans, at least in the mid-Atlantic, are trying to avoid making abortion a litmus test for voters in November.

Mastriano, standing alongside Rudy Giuliani and his son, Andrew, who he was there to endorse in his bid for New York governor, spoke at length about energy policy and fielded softball questions from those in attendance about the need to listen to rural voters. But neither he nor the Giulianis said a word about the day's biggest news: the long-sought victory of the conservative movement over federally protected abortion rights.

Back in Pennsylvania, surveys indicate that Shapiro, a Democrat, has a small lead over the GOP candidate in this divided, bellwether state, which went for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and President Joe Biden in 2020.

Shapiro's campaign appears to share Mastriano's assessment of the politics of reproductive rights in a state where most residents say they support keeping abortion legal. The governor's race is particularly important because, without a Democratic governor pledging a veto, the state's Republican-led legislature could pass new restrictions as early as next year.

In a television ad released last week, the Shapiro campaign led with Mastriano's position on reproductive rights.

"He wants to outlaw and criminalize all abortions," the narrator states, and "opposes any exceptions for rape, incest, or even the life of the mother."

Mastriano, meanwhile, has pinned an attack on Shapiro to the top of his Facebook page. Its top-line message: "Gas: unaffordable."

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