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Shapiro to take office with mandate from Pennsylvania voters

Josh Shapiro, the Democratic governor-elect of Pennsylvania, will take office with a decisive mandate from voters, who overwhelmingly rejected a Republican drive to pare back abortion rights and voting laws in the premier battleground state.

Shapiro, the state’s two-term attorney general, scored a massive 14 percentage point win over Republican rival Doug Mastriano in last week’s midterm election, smashed state campaign finance records and became the first candidate since 1966 to succeed a governor of the same party in Pennsylvania.

Democrats in the state also flipped a U.S. Senate seat — just the second time since the Civil War that the state elected two Democrats to the chamber — while winning a majority of the state’s congressional seats and possibly even control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said the election results showed voters’ eagerness to protect abortion rights and the sanctity of elections from subversion by far-right Republicans who promoted former President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud in his 2020 loss.

“In a lot of ways, it was a triumph over extremism as much as anything, and we probably underestimated that in the election,” Casey said.

Set to be sworn in Jan. 17, Shapiro will take the reins in a state riven by bitter partisanship over voting laws and the management of the COVID-19 pandemic by his predecessor, outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. That helped drive a record number of vetoes by one governor going back to the 1970s.

Shapiro will likely face battles with Republicans who control the state Senate over the grist of statehouse business, such as budgeting.

And, with the 2024 presidential election looming, big questions remain unresolved over the state’s voting laws after three years of partisan gridlock, ongoing court battles over mail-in voting and Trump’s lies of fraud in the 2020 election that still buffet the state.

Still, Shapiro stressed that crossover support from Republican voters aided his victory against Mastriano, a far-right state senator who spread conspiracy theories, supported a complete ban on abortion and did more than any other gubernatorial candidate in the nation to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

Pledging to manage the state’s affairs with bipartisanship in mind, Shapiro said he has a “mandate” to bring people together and vowed to work with Republicans in the state Capitol.

“I think it’s clear, you know, I’m not going to get everything done that I want, and they’re not going to get everything done they want,” Shapiro said in an interview Friday on WILK-FM in Scranton. “But there’s a lot we can do together and that is what is going to be my focus.”