Pennsylvania Republicans, yearning for the governorship after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s two terms in office, were thwarted this year by a superior candidate, Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro, and by their own primary election system. It produced the disastrous Republican candidate, Sen. Doug Mastriano, who lost by 14 percentage points and likely hurt Republican candidates in the voting.
Part of that blow was due to independent voters overwhelmingly electing Shapiro by more than 2-1.
There are 1.4 million Independents among Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million registered voters, and they are the fastest growing cohort. However, state law does not allow them to vote in primary elections, leaving each party’s voters alone to choose their candidates, or in Mastriano’s case, their poison.
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The only question in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary was which candidate could show the most loyalty to former President Donald Trump.
Mastriano was credible in that regard. He spat out Trump’s lie that the 2020 Pennsylvania presidential election was stolen from Trump. He introduced a Senate order to prevent confirmation of the election. He funded bus trips to Washington on January 6, 2021 to defy Congressional confirmation of the Electoral College vote and was staying in the Capitol amid the riot. He participated in efforts to appoint false voters.
However, this primary creed was fatal in the parliamentary elections. That’s why Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz attempted to dive into the middle during the general election campaign after courting Trump’s approval of beating David McCormick in the primary.
Mastriano didn’t even try to woo voters beyond the Trump base and was verbally abused.
There is a tool at hand for parties to protect themselves from bad candidates and improve governance in the process.
Pennsylvania was to introduce open primary elections, which would allow independents to vote for candidates in primary elections. If this year’s primary had been open, independents who helped Mastriano in the general election would have beaten him in the primary instead.
Open primaries could go a long way in limiting extremism in both major party primaries and producing better candidates. The Senate passed an open-primary bill in 2019, but it died in the House of Representatives. The entire legislature should approve the change in the new session.
— From the Scranton Times-Tribune (AP).