Democrats and allied groups are launching a $6 million digital, television and voter mobilization campaign attacking GOP Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, betting that his pledges to completely ban abortion will turn off swing state voters.
The ads, which will highlight Mastriano’s position and public comments against abortion rights, will begin airing in Pennsylvania on Monday. Sponsored by the political nonprofit Strategic Victory Fund along with other major Democratic donors and allied organizations, the campaign is being run by affiliates of Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Governors Association, along with the Pennsylvania-based progressive nonprofit group Commonwealth Communications.
The campaign is a massive sum for the starting gate of the most high-profiled gubernatorial races in the country. And it’s the latest indication that Democrats nationwide believe a potential Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark case Roe v. Wade will be a boon for turnout in November. In Pennsylvania, outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to veto legislation restricting abortion access in the Republican-controlled legislature. But Mastriano, a state senator, has sponsored legislation that would ban abortion as soon as a heartbeat is detected.
Mastriano will face off against state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the general election. Shapiro has already signaled that he will make protecting abortion rights a key component of his campaign messaging.
The coalition behind the new campaign in Pennsylvania intends to expand its spending as November approaches. About $1.1 million of the total $6 million will be dedicated to digital ads on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms. Those will be run by Planned Parenthood Votes and Commonwealth Communications. Another $2 million will support organizing efforts by in-state groups. The rest will fund a television ad campaign from Put Pennsylvania First, an affiliate of the Democratic Governors Association. Those ads will air in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets.
The first advertisement, titled “Mastriano Backwards,” includes a video of Mastriano at a gubernatorial debate declaring his opposition to all exceptions in any abortion ban.
“With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s not hyperbole to say abortion access in Pennsylvania is truly on the line this November,” said Cortney Bouse, Pennsylvania field director for Planned Parenthood Votes, in a statement. She said the organization “will do everything in our power, both online and on the ground, to ensure voters understand how Doug Mastriano would move Pennsylvania backward.”
In the wake of the draft opinion overturning Roe, published by POLITICO, groups backing Democratic candidates for state offices have been working closely with reproductive rights organizations. Early this month, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List announced a $150 million spending plan of their own around the midterms. Pamela Shifman, president of the deep-pocketed donor network Democracy Alliance, said that not long before news of the draft opinion broke, more than 200 donors convened at its in-person conference in Arizona and were told by abortion-rights leaders that the issue would be key going into November.
Christina Amestoy, a Democratic Governors Association spokesperson, said her organization also has been coordinating its messaging with the abortion-rights groups. In addition, Democratic attorneys general and candidates have met with a working group that included the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to discuss fundraising, said Geoff Burgan, a spokesperson for the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Burgan noted the organization has received several six-figure donations from individuals motivated by abortion rights.
In Pennsylvania, operatives are hoping the $6 million campaign framing the statewide race around abortion will be a winning strategy for Shapiro.
“The threat is clear: the Supreme Court strikes down Roe, our extremist GOP legislature passes an abortion ban, and then it will be up to the governor,” said J.J. Abbott, executive director of Commonwealth Communications, in a statement. “And Doug Mastriano will sign any ban, no matter how extreme, and Josh Shapiro will veto it. This comprehensive early program will be vital to ensure Pennsylvanians know these stakes couldn’t be higher and Doug Mastriano couldn’t be more dangerous.”
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