State Sen. Doug Mastriano makes his first public stop in Philadelphia on Friday to meet with Latino business owners and pitch his ultraconservative candidacy in the state’s most Democratic city.
Democratic lawmakers and political groups opposed to Mastriano said they would demonstrate outside the North Philadelphia venue.
The event, dubbed Philadelphia’s 1st Hispanic Town Hall, is hosted by the Small Business Union, a nonprofit business league that supports commerce in the region. The group’s founder, Fernando Suarez, says Mastriano’s campaign approached him to organize something and he agreed – with some hesitation.
“They were asking a Republican business owner to commit to the city of Philadelphia,” Suarez said. Sticking your neck out as a Republican is like your death wish, but I stuck out my hand.
Suarez said about 15 pastors as well as heads of small businesses in the area planned to come and ask Mastriano questions. The event is free, but attendees had the option of donating $200 to Mastriano’s campaign for a VIP ticket.
Suarez described the rally in revolutionary war terms. “Small businesses come together and unite because they are unheard, unserved and that hasn’t really happened since 1776 when colonial businesses got together and said, ‘What do we do this tyranny? “”
He said that, like the gathering nearly 250 years ago, “We will pray. We will ask God, ‘What should we do next?’ Because we are sick of the 70 years of corruption plaguing the whole city.
The event takes place at 10:30 a.m. at the Deja Vu Social Club at 519 W. Erie Ave.
Mastriano’s appearance in Philadelphia follows a slew of bad news for his campaign in recent days, as GOP strategists and operatives began to question his chances, given a widening poll gap and little money, and some news organizations pre-wrote his campaign obituary.
At least three Democratic groups – and supporters of Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro – have said they will protest the mayoralty of Fifth and Erie.
“Tomorrow, Doug Mastriano’s ‘No Comment Express’ will come to Philadelphia as his fractious campaign comes under fire for its toxic extremism and dangerous agenda,” Shapiro’s campaign said in a statement.
Former city councilor Maria Quiñones-Sánchez said small businesses in her community “are being used as props for a photo op for people who don’t care about them, who are anti-immigration, anti-family reunification, who want more border walls. How can an immigrant business owner sit in a room and listen to a person who has spread hatred towards everything that person stands for? I’m so mad at that.
Mastriano’s campaign, which rarely responds to media inquiries, did not respond to a request for comment. The campaign is allowing press in Friday’s event, however, with 40 days until Election Day.
Mastriano’s outreach to Latino voters isn’t all that surprising. The Republican Party continued to make inroads with Latino voters, a trend accelerated by former President Donald Trump. And Latinos in the state have frequently lamented the lack of political engagement in their communities by Democratic candidates running for office.
“We can’t overlook the fact that in the Latino community there were quite a few Trump voters,” Quiñones-Sánchez said. “Latinos tend to be more conservative, especially on the religious side.”
State Rep. Danilo Burgos, who represents the Harrisburg borough, called Mastriano “desperate” but said Democrats should be “committed to fighting for every vote.”
“He’s doing what Trump did on his campaign and as we’ve all learned, that resonates with people,” Burgos said of Mastriano. “People who feel like they haven’t been heard or aren’t part of the process. It is up to all of us to ensure that they feel involved in the democratic process.
Quiñones-Sánchez and Burgos said Shapiro visited the neighborhood twice over the summer. On Friday, he is scheduled to attend an event with Latino voters in Allentown.
Suarez of the Small Business Union said Shapiro’s campaign had not reached his group and he had no plans to invite Shapiro to a similar meeting. He said that in 35 years in business in the city, he has never felt supported by Democratic leadership, which he associates with candidates up and down the ballot.
“I wouldn’t call and Shapiro’s campaign would never approach me,” he said. “I know how this town works. They don’t care about small businesses.