‘Midterms are just as important’: Pitt students discuss Pennsylvania gubernatorial election


AP Photo

This combination of photos shows Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, left, and Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, right.

By Alexandra Ross, Senior Staff Writer

Midterm elections always fall behind presidential elections when it comes to voter turnout. But according to student Matt Moore, these midterm elections — including this year’s Pennsylvania gubernatorial race — aren’t any less important than presidential elections. 

“The governor does sway a lot of policy and make a lot of decisions that affect us, honestly  more than the president does,” Moore, a senior political science, philosophy and economics major, said. “Midterms are just as important as on-year presidential cycles.”

Pennsylvania voters will take to the polls on Nov. 8 to determine whether Democrat Josh Shapiro or Republican Doug Mastriano will take over the governor’s mansion once Governor Tom Wolf leaves office in January. Shapiro has been the attorney general of Pennsylvania since 2017 and previously served as a state representative for PA’s 153rd district and county commissioner in Montgomery County. Mastriano has served as a state representative since 2019. 

Moore, who serves as the mobilization director of Pitt for Shapiro, said he believes Mastriano holds “the most far-right extreme views on almost every policy,” including cutting education funding and banning abortion without exceptions. On the other hand, he said he thinks Shapiro’s policies are “common sense.”

“They resonate with everyone, you know, he wants to fully fund our education system, he wants to make healthcare more accessible, he wants to safeguard our elections system and make it easier or make it more accessible to vote,” Moore said.

Salvatore Zuber, a senior advanced mathematics and mechanical engineering major and current president of College Republicans, said he disagrees that Mastriano is “too radical” for Pennsylvania — as some pro-Shapiro ads have claimed — because Mastriano’s policies align with himself and other people he knows in the state. 

“I don’t necessarily think that most of his beliefs are too radical for PA,” Zuber said. “I think that he would be a good representative of at least most of the people that I interact with in Pennsylvania.” 

Zuber and College Republicans vice president-elect Joshua Minsky said they support Mastriano because of his support for fracking, approach to the economy, pro-life policies and advocacy for parental influence in school curriculum. 

Meanwhile, Moore and Pitt for Shapiro policy director Liam Horan said Shapiro fighting climate change, protecting abortion access, investing in education and taking on white-collar crime as attorney general made him the stronger candidate.

According to his campaign website, Mastriano “believes parents have a fundamental right to know and control what their children are learning in school” and he would “place an immediate ban on Critical Race and Gender Theory Studies in Pennsylvania schools” if elected. Minsky, a sophomore neuroscience major, said keeping critical race theory and gender theory out of elementary and middle schools is an important issue to him in this election. 

“I think parents should have more influence in the classroom,” Minsky said. “This idea of like, pushing race and sexuality on people in elementary school, I don’t understand why anyone feels the need to do that. I think it’s counterproductive, I think it confuses children, and it’s inappropriate.” 

 Abortion is one of the top issues for Democratic voters like Horan, a sophomore political science and French major. He said Mastriano’s no-exceptions stance on abortion is “frankly cruel.” 

“He [Mastriano] literally said on tape that ‘my body, my choice’ is, in his words, ridiculous nonsense,” Horan said. “He wants to ban abortion even in [the] case of rape or incest. I think that even, in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that this is a crucial issue for PA students, specifically Pitt students as well.” 

Zuber said another reason he is voting for Mastriano this November is that he has seen anti-Shapiro political advertisements which claim Shapiro is against funding law enforcement as crime rises in parts of the state, particularly Philadelphia. 

“There was a billboard that I drive by every now and then that says… ‘If you want to defund the police, vote for Shapiro for governor,’” Zuber said. “I don’t understand how, with the current rising crime rates, it makes sense to cut police funding.” 

Shapiro’s campaign website says he has “supported law enforcement across Pennsylvania, calling for increased funding for training and working collaboratively with local police departments.” Horan said the Mastriano campaign is trying to take advantage of national backlash against progressive Democrats who want to “defund the police.” 

“The Mastriano campaign is trying to play into national trends, and they’re not even looking at our candidate’s record, which has been proven to tackle crime day in and day out,” Horan said. 

Another important issue for Minsky is illegal immigration. He said he feels strongly that Pennsylvania resources should not go towards those living in the state illegally, particularly during a period of economic struggle and inflation

“When it turns into thousands of people [living in PA illegally], it really starts to put a strain on the government budget and I don’t think Pennsylvania should be going into deep debt supporting people that don’t need to be supported… when there’s millions of people that could be receiving that aid instead,” Minsky said. “Considering the mass inflation, we shouldn’t be going more into debt… We shouldn’t be spending more when there’s more inflation. It’s the opposite, we should be spending less.”

Shapiro has maintained a steady lead against Mastriano in the polls, according to FiveThirtyEight, which shows Shapiro leading by at least 8 points throughout October. Horan said while these polls look good for Shapiro, Mastriano could potentially still bring home the win on Election Day.  

“We’ve seen polls that have shown sort of that trajectory [of Shapiro winning],” Horan said. “However, Josh often says as well that the only poll that matters is Election Day, and we’ve seen in the past [that] polls maybe, you know, aren’t the most reliable, and so I am cautiously optimistic.”