Thursday, December 8th 2022   |

Josh Shapiro, Democrat who made his Jewishness a campaign focus, wins Pennsylvania governor’s race


(JTA) — Josh Shapiro, a Democrat who openly embraced his Jewish faith on the campaign trail and called his opponent out for his connections to antisemitic supporters, is projected to have won the state’s race for governor against the far-right Republican candidate Doug Mastriano.

Josh Shapiro addresses the media after casting his ballot in Rydal, Penn., Nov. 8, 2022. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Shapiro, who is currently the state’s attorney general, launched his campaign with ads that referenced his Shabbat observance and sends his children to Jewish day school. His decisive win makes him one of the most influential Jewish politicians in the United States.

The race was closely watched because of the messaging from the Donald Trump-endorsed Mastriano, one of the most extreme Republicans running for any statewide race in the midterms who counted Christian nationalists among his backers. The state Senator advertised on the social network Gab, a haven for far-right extremists, including the perpetrator of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting, and later accepted a campaign donation from the site’s openly antisemitic founder Andrew Torba even as he said he “rejects antisemitism in any form.” Mastriano’s Gab ties earned him a rare intra-party rebuke from the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Mastriano’s campaign amassed several other Jewish-themed controversial moments. He attacked the Jewish day school that Shapiro sends his children to, calling it “elite” without specifying it was Jewish; one of his advisers called Shapiro “at best a secular Jew”; and his wife told an Israeli reporter they “probably” love Israel “more than a lot of Jews do.” Prior to his running for governor, Mastriano also funded and acted in a Holocaust movie with heavily right-wing overtones.

His campaign continued to turn heads in its closing hours, when his final stop ended with a Messianic Jew serenading him with a parody of a “Fiddler On The Roof” song.

(Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct inaccurate information about Pennsylvania’s history of Jewish governors.)

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