Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, brought his campaign message to the Amish community in a tightly packed hall at the White Horse Fire Co. in Salisbury Township last week.
Coming directly from Harrisburg where the House and Senate had been in session all day on Oct. 26, Mastriano spoke about the importance of turning out on Nov. 8 for the General Election, making his pitch to a community that had until recently shied away from getting involved in politics.
Mastriano asked the crowd what God would have them do to help change the course of the state and the country, saying he’s seen the Amish community suffering a “resurgence of persecution” from government bureaucrats. He spoke directly about Upper Leacock Township Amish farmer Amos Miller and his battle with the federal government over meat processing regulations and selling organic products directly to his private customer cooperative.
“We are standing at a crossroads,” Mastriano said. “It’s some really dark times in America, and I think God is calling modern day Esthers and Gideons to rise up and to stand in the gap.”
Corey Fisher, a member of the White Horse Fire Co. and the local Amish community, helped organize the event to bring Mastriano to a part of Lancaster County that has been dismissed in the past in statewide election campaigns.
Fisher said he could “feel the energy” of the people who made their way to the fire company to hear the governor candidate.
“There’s a lot of untapped potential right here in this small community,” Fisher said. “We just need to make good use of it.”
Mastriano spoke for around 30 minutes, touching on campaign points he has made around the state, including the rising crime levels in places like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that have happened under the watch of his opponent, Democrat Attorney General Josh Shapiro. He also spoke about his energy policy of ramping up coal and natural gas production, building a gas pipeline through the state to a new liquefied natural gas port in the Delaware River and removing the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative meant to curb carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon credits.
But Mastriano also talked about Miller’s trouble with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice, saying it was “heartbreaking” what was being done to him in the courts. Mastriano said he had a “good meeting” with Miller to discuss his situation, saying there are measures at the state level that could benefit him.
Mastriano said the government has “gone beyond common sense regulations” regarding farming and food production and is now “oppressing people” by forcing producers to put additives and preservatives in the food, defeating the purpose for having organic farming.
The oppression goes beyond the federal government, Mastriano said, moving into state government through agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection and calling them “out of control.” He told a story about an artesian well serving around 100 households in his home county of Franklin County, saying the DEP forces daily tests of the water and mandates chlorine to treat the water even though it’s pure.
“They show up with their clipboards, and they have all these regulations that they can find you guilty of and shut you down if they don’t like you,” Mastriano said. “I’ve taken note of this community, and this county is a particular focus of their persecution right now. And it does not need to be, it should not be. This is Pennsylvania. You should be able to live your lives as you see fit, not as some bureaucrat out of Harrisburg thinks you ought to be doing business.”
Mastriano said his vision for Pennsylvania is to “reign in the bureaucrats” in agencies like the DEP and the Department of Health, pointing out that there are 80,000 people working for the governor. He said many of those bureaucrats showed their incompetency during COVID-19 and the related shutdowns and that the academic training of the “English” got most of the pandemic protocols wrong as compared to the Amish community.
“We had something to learn from this community here, that’s for sure,” Mastriano said.
One of the first steps Mastriano said he would take as governor is to roll back state regulations to “bring more freedom and prosperity” for Pennsylvania because “every regulation comes with a cost.” He said there are currently 153,000 state regulations, and his goal in the first 100 days is to get that number under 100,000.
Mastriano said people could easily see the difference a governor can make for a state during COVID-19, singling out Gov. Tom Wolf’s “heavy handed” business and community lockdown measures. He said a governor like Ron DeSantis in Florida demonstrated that having common-sense measures can keep the public safe while not destroying the economy.
“My vision for Pennsylvania is to bring a little bit of Florida to us,” Mastriano said.
Mastriano also spoke about the historical persecution of the Amish community in Europe, saying Pennsylvania’s founder William Penn suffered similar religious persecutions in England as a Quaker. Mastriano said Penn ended up in jail at least six times for his faith, and on his second or third imprisonment, King Charles II offered to let him get out of jail early if he “just stopped talking about Jesus so much, join the right church and change his political ideas a bit.”
Mastriano said Penn was true to his convictions and said he would rather die in prison than compromise on his faith, and less than a decade later he was given the opportunity to create the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“Lancaster County is the personification of William Penn’s dream for our nation,” Mastriano said. “It truly is the most beautiful county in our great state… And it’s more than the land. It’s the people that comprise this county. I think it’s a very special place in our nation.”
Bikers for Trump
Chris Cox, founder of the grassroots political organization Bikers for Trump and a South Carolina native, spoke to the crowd before Mastriano took the stage. Cox said he has been traveling to Amish communities around the country for several years, working on get out the vote initiatives.
Cox said when he founded Bikers for Trump seven years ago, he wanted to help devise a plan to fight opioid abuse. He started looking at devastated counties in Ohio, and he soon discovered the three counties with the lowest levels of opioid abuse also had large Amish populations.
The former chainsaw artist started working in local Amish-owned businesses to try to win their confidence in voting initiatives in the community, harvesting hay and cutting up pigs and cows for meat. Soon he was invited to stay in Amish homes and attend weddings, learning “how dynamic and how wealthy this community is” with the value of family and work ethic.
In the 2020 presidential election, Cox made a concerted effort to get the Amish out to vote. He said before the voting initiative started the Republican National Committee estimated that Amish voting levels nationwide were around 1% of their total population. After targeting predominantly Amish counties, the percentage of Amish voters rose to 15%, adding around 160,000 first-time voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Cox said he spoke with former President Donald Trump on the phone several weeks ago, and he suggested that he and his grassroots group should return to Ohio and Pennsylvania to “use some of the influence that we have through the biker community” to encourage people to vote.
Cox said he sees several similarities between Trump and Mastriano, including their habit to “say exactly what’s on their mind,” their relationship with God and their “stand for law and order.”
“They both care about everybody in front of them,” Cox said. “They want to see the best for everybody – even the people that don’t vote for them, they want to help them. They want to preserve our country, the work of our forefathers, and put them in high esteem and make sure that this country goes in a direction that we want it to go in.”
Spooky Nook Rally
Besides the White Horse rally, Mastriano returned for another campaign stop on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in East Hempfield Township with his running mate for lieutenant governor, Carrie DelRosso, and former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik.
Hundreds of people filled the room at Spooky Nook as Mastriano spoke for more than 45 minutes, donning a Philadelphia Phillies hat in honor of the team’s World Series appearance.
Mastriano criticized Wolf and Shapiro for their actions during the pandemic, including their support for lockdowns.
Before Mastriano’s speech, Lancaster County Commissioners Ray D’Agostino and Josh Parsons both spoke to the crowd, urging voters to vote for Mastriano and DelRosso. D’Agostino said the administration of Wolf, Shapiro and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has seen an “erosion of freedoms” and a “threat to our lives and livelihoods.” After the rally, Mastriano held a 30-minute press conference to lay out his “Safe and Secure Neighborhoods” initiative for fighting rising crime levels in Pennsylvania. He said the plan includes increased funding for law enforcement, anti-gang initiatives and support for victims of crime.