A Democratic state senate candidate in Pennsylvania is seeking to disqualify Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, an outspoken Trump supporter, from the governor’s race because he allegedly participated in an “insurrection” against the U.S. government.
Democrats and a handful of Republicans have characterized the security breach on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol complex in which supporters of then-President Donald Trump delayed the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election results for several hours as an insurrection or coup attempt. That claim has been adamantly denied by Trump and his supporters.
The legal challenge is being brought in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania by Calvin Clements, a retired veterinarian who’s seeking the Democratic nomination in state Senate District 48. Mastriano currently represents state Senate District 33.
Mastriano is leading a field of nine candidates seeking the GOP nomination for governor of the Keystone State, garnering 21.9 percent support, local media reported, citing a recent poll by the Trafalgar Group. Mastriano, whom some call “mini Trump,” leads former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), who’s polling at 18.8 percent, followed by former federal prosecutor Bill McSwain at 17.4 percent and businessman Dave White at 11.4 percent.
The primary election is on May 17. The current governor, Democrat Tom Wolf, is term-limited. Attorney General Josh Shapiro is running unopposed in the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary.
Legal documents in the case were filed on the morning of May 10, Clements told The Epoch Times in an email. The case “absolutely will continue,” he wrote.
“The voters need to know who this guy is and what he had done,” Clements said.
Separately, the nonprofit Free Speech For People is urging Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman, a Democrat, to bar Mastriano “from appearing on the ballot for election to any state office in Pennsylvania,” according to a March 25 letter the group sent to Chapman.
“You have the authority and responsibility to determine, as part of the state ballot qualification process, that because Mr. Mastriano engaged in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Mastriano is ineligible to appear on the gubernatorial ballot or on any other ballot for office in the state of Pennsylvania,” the letter reads.
It’s unclear if Chapman has the authority to do anything about Mastriano’s candidacy at this late date or if she has taken any action. Her office has repeatedly failed to respond to requests for comment.
Those trying to kick Mastriano off the ballot say his actions on Jan. 6 triggered the rarely invoked disqualification clause in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was enacted in the wake of the Civil War to keep former Confederates out of Congress and state governments.
The provision states in the relevant part: “No person shall … hold any office … under any state, who, having previously taken an oath … or as a member of any state legislature … any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Clements argues Mastriano was part of this so-called insurrection.
“Our argument is two fold [sic],” Clements said in an earlier email exchange with The Epoch Times. “Mastriano crossed at least two police barriers,” which he said is a felony for which there’s video evidence.
Mastriano “led his followers up the stairs to the Capitol building,” which Clements said constitutes “conspiracy.”
“I believe we have adequate case law to support,” he said.
Clements is attempting to use an already-filed lawsuit as a vehicle for his push to remove Mastriano from the ballot.
The case is Hill v. Mastriano, civil action 4:22-cv-556, filed in federal court in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff Jeffrey D. Hill, of Muncy, Pennsylvania, who’s representing himself, has a history of filing meritless lawsuits. A U.S. magistrate judge recommended the lawsuit be dismissed, but Hill filed a notice of appeal on May 9 entirely in his own handwriting.
Clements is asking the court to let him participate as an intervenor-plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Although Hill’s pleadings in the case are “incomplete,” the case should be allowed to proceed, Clements stated in a document (pdf) filed on May 10.
“Hill pled sufficient facts to allow him, and the Proposed Intervenor, to proceed in this matter. The question of Mastriano’s January 6 conduct is a question of fact to be determined at bar and not dismissed just because Hill seems to be, in the opinion of this Court, a serial filer of what at times may be irritating litigation,” the document reads.
“At least in this action, Hill has a point that Mastriano crossed a police line during the attack on the Capitol. Mastriano is fully capable of answering for his conduct and should be given the equal chance to do so before this Court.”
Clements also noted in the document that Mastriano “hired three busloads of people to attend and marched to the lower steps of the West side of the Capitol building past police barricades” on Jan. 6, 2021.
Mastriano told The Epoch Times that the efforts by Clements and Free Speech for People were attempts to interfere with the electoral process.
“This is what a true ‘attack on democracy’ looks like,” Mastriano told Epoch Times by email. “A dark money group attempting to remove a candidate from the ballot and deny the voice of voters. This phony lawsuit to remove me from the ballot was quickly dismissed by a federal judge. I have been very clear about the events of January 6.
“Like most of the attendees there, I did not break ANY laws.
“I was there to support my president and advocate for my constituents who had many concerns about the conduct of the 2020 election. Democrat groups are attempting to remove me from the ballot because they know I am the only candidate with the energy and the grassroots movements to defeat Josh Shapiro in November.”
Correction: Clements is a candidate running for the state senate, not the governor position. The Epoch Times regrets the error.