Jewish voters in Pennsylvania appear to be breaking strongly for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his gubernatorial race against retired army colonel and State Senator Doug Mastriano.
The latest polling has Shapiro up by a considerable margin with only 24 hours to go until election day.
Mastriano has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism based on his association with the social media platform Gab, which allows anti-Semitic content. In mid-July, liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America reported that Mastriano’s campaign paid $5,000 to Gab, which was frequented by Tree of Life synagogue shooter Robert Bowers before he committed the massacre that killed 11 congregants and injured several others in the bloodiest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.
Gab founder and CEO Andrew Torba has said that his site exists to uphold free speech and the $5,000 it received from Mastriano’s campaign was for advertising.
In a livestream responding to criticism of Mastriano and Gab, Torba said that Jews and other non-Christians are “not conservative” because the U.S. “is an explicitly Christian country.” He also stated that he does not conduct interviews with “reporters who aren’t Christian or with outlets who aren’t Christian” and claimed that Mastriano “has a very similar media strategy where he does not do interviews with these people.”
The day after Torba made his statement, Mastriano tweeted, “Andrew Torba does not speak for me or my campaign. I reject anti-Semitism in any form.” He went on to characterize the accusations of anti-Semitism as “smears” designed to distract Pennsylvania voters from “suffering inflicted by Democrat policies.”
Carol Kanterman, 76, of Pittsburgh, a retired saleswoman and a Republican, said she does not trust Mastriano. Although she appreciated that he distanced himself from Gab and Torba, she thinks his words were not strong enough.
She said, “I think he should have come out more strongly and said, ‘I gave the money, but now that I know what that site contains, I’m never giving to that site again. I’m not anti-Semitic and I want nothing to do with that site.’”
Kanterman, who noted that she also disliked “a remark Mastriano made about Shapiro sending his kids to private school,” said she will vote for neither Mastriano nor Shapiro, “which will end up being a vote for Shapiro” because he is favored to win.
Joe Albert, 74, of Scranton, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, will also vote for Shapiro, despite the fact that he is a Republican.
“I plan to cross the aisle and vote for Shapiro for two reasons,” said Albert. “For one, I think Mastriano is a whack job. And Shapiro is Jewish, and would like to be on the way to the White House in 2024.”
Albert does not think Mastriano went far enough in rejecting Torba. He is also concerned about a letter he says he received, addressed to him as an officer of the American Legion, that contained what he described as “an anti-Semitic, vulgar mailing.”
The mailing read in part, “Jacka$$ Josh will catapult PA back into brutal lockdowns, socialist distancing … and mandatory toxic vaccinations in a Philadelphia minute. … Jacka$$ Josh’s disgusting smirk hides the scowl of a corporate criminal, hate-filled bigot and communist commi$$ar.” The mailing had no return address, according to Albert.
Whether it came from someone associated with the Mastriano campaign or Mastriano “has the misfortune of appealing to anti-Semites” despite not necessarily being one himself, the mailing distressed Albert and reinforced his decision to vote for Shapiro.
Albert said he spoke with three other American Legion offices in Pennsylvania that received similar mailings “and tossed it into the trash.”
Andrea Chester, 72, a Democrat who lives in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which was the site of the Tree of Life massacre, is voting for Shapiro.
“The vast majority of Jewish people here will vote for Shapiro,” said Chester, a writing instructor at Community College of Allegheny County who is active in supporting pro-Israel causes. “Hundreds of Jewish people in the area, including even Jewish conservatives, are wary of Mastriano.”
In particular, Chester noted her discomfort with Mastriano’s comments regarding the Jewish day schools attended by Shapiro’s children.
“After what happened at Tree of Life, that is a very sensitive subject,” she said.
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