Pennsylvania is in the national spotlight this midterm election season, with two crucial races playing out in the battleground state.
While all races on the ballot are important, Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, between Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano, and the race to fill the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Republican Pat Toomey (who held the seat for 12 years), between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, are of significant consequence.
In 2020, Pennsylvania played a key role in deciding the outcome of the presidential election, which, two years later, former-President Donald Trump continues to claim was fraudulent, despite never having produced any evidence of that being the case. Mastriano, a propagator of Trump’s “Big Lie,” was among the mob that crossed police lines on Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump instigated his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol.
In some states, the secretary of state is elected by voters, but in Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state (or commonwealth), and that official is responsible for overseeing and certifying the state’s elections. If the 2024 presidential election were to hinge on Pennsylvania, which is not unlikely, a Big Lie conspirator like Mastriano could tilt the balance in an anti-democratic manner, if given the opportunity.
As part of his plan to upend Pennsylvania’s election process, Mastriano says he would clear the state’s voter rolls and force all voters to re-register. Election experts say that would be an illegal move, but would that prevent a high-ranking elected official, who was willing to join a Capitol-storming mob, from trying?
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Democrats currently have the narrowest control possible, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote for the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.
Although the Senate can pass bills with a simple majority, 51-50, the minority party can filibuster to continue debate on a bill, preventing a vote from happening. While 60 votes are needed to end a filibuster and force a vote, with just 51 votes, Democrats could exercise the “nuclear option,” which is a loophole used to alter Senate rules, in this case regarding the filibuster, without the 67-vote supermajority typically needed to make such changes.
Throughout Joe Biden’s presidency, Democrats have encountered roadblocks from their own party, namely from senators Joe Manchin (W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who recently refused to support using the nuclear option to enable Democrats to move forward with codifying Roe v. Wade into law. Regardless of his status as a Democrat, Manchin does not support the right to an abortion.
Oz is also against the right to an abortion, despite the fact that the majority of Pennsylvanians believe, according to the Pew Research Center, that abortion should be legal in “all/most cases.”
Fetterman supports the right to an abortion and would help Senate Democrats advance protections for reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy.
Going back to the gubernatorial candidates; Mastriano is not only against the right to an abortion – even in cases of rape and incest – but he also believes anyone who sought an abortion, if made illegal, should be charged with murder, as he told WITF radio in 2019. It’s important to remember that pregnancy complications can put the pregnant person’s life at risk, and, in these cases, abortions are performed to save lives.
When the conservative United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, a decision that disregarded the will of the majority of Americans, 13 states were ready with “trigger laws” to immediately outlaw or significantly restrict abortion, often with no exception for rape or incest. Mastriano would like to add Pennsylvania to the growing list of states criminalizing abortion to extreme degrees.
Reproductiverights.org already lists Pennsylvania as being “hostile” toward abortion, explaining:
“Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe: Abortion will likely remain accessible in Pennsylvania, but without legal protection. [Outgoing Governor Tom Wolf] is supportive of abortion rights, but numerous medically unnecessary restrictions make it difficult to access abortion care in the state.”
Only with Josh Shapiro as governor can Pennsylvania hope to expand the right to an abortion and protect reproductive freedom; and only with John Fetterman gaining Pennsylvania’s vacant Senate seat can Democrats improve their chances of protecting the right to an abortion at the federal level.
There are many issues to consider, and this article only briefly covers two, reproductive freedom and preservation of democracy, but those two issues are reliable barometers for determining who to vote for. If you are a proponent of freedom and democracy, Mastriano and Oz will disappoint you.
The 2022 U.S. midterm elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Pennsylvania voters must submit absentee and mail-in ballot requests by Nov. 1. Be sure to check your voter registration status to confirm your eligibility to vote, and confirm polling place location and hours before Election Day at www.pavoterservices.pa.gov.