WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, announced Tuesday that he has entered the race for the U.S. Senate.
Barletta, 61, of Hazleton, will seek the Republican nomination for the right to take on incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who is seeking his third six-year term.
Barletta will forgo a run for re-election to a fifth two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives to try to unseat Casey in 2018.
The official announcement was made at 7 a.m. Tuesday via a videotaped statement. Barletta has been considering the move for weeks, and President Donald Trump has encouraged him to seek the Senate post.
Several Republicans have been waiting for Barletta to announce his decision, among them former Pennsylvania Secretary of Revenue Dan Meuser and state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, both of whom reportedly are interested in seeking his House seat.
Casey, 57, of Scranton, is seeking his third term in the Senate. Barletta has served in the U.S. House since 2010, winning his fourth two-year term in November.
In his statement announcing his candidacy, Barletta said that after discussing the decision with his wife, Mary Grace, his family, many people across Pennsylvania, and after saying a few prayers, he decided to enter the Senate race.
“I don’t see running for the Senate to represent Pennsylvania as an opportunity,” Barletta said. “I see it as a responsibility. I wasn’t born with a famous last name.”
Barletta also made a pitch for campaign contributions, noting that Casey has built a war chest “bankrolled by the most extreme liberal special-interest groups in the country.” Said Barletta: “Pennsylvania deserves better than an obstructionist senator.”
Barletta said Pennsylvania deserves a leader who actually listens to them and fights for them in Washington.
“But I want to offer Pennsylvania more than just being a better option than Bob Casey,” he said. “I want to be the type of senator that you can be proud of, confident that I will always put Pennsylvania’s interests first, and assured that I will work relentlessly to give Pennsylvania a strong voice in Washington. I believe together, we’re about to make history.”
Following Barletta’s Senate campaign announcement, Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele released the following statement:
“If Congressman Lou Barletta thinks voting to raise health-care costs for seniors, gut protections for those with preexisting conditions, and send premiums skyrocketing will earn him a promotion, he’s in for a rude awakening. Congressman Barletta is out of step with Pennsylvania values and in the pocket of D.C. Republicans and wealthy special interests. That’s why he’s supported privatizing Social Security, voucherizing Medicare and a health-care age tax for older Pennsylvanians.
“Pennsylvania’s families and seniors need a Senator they can count on to fight for them. An ethically challenged congressman like Lou Barletta can only be counted on to fight for himself. The commonwealth deserves better than Congressman Lou Barletta.”
Recent hints have suggested Barletta would make a bid for the Senate. The latest was the revelation that Barletta’s Senate campaign is listed as one of the clients for BrabenderCox, one of the largest public-relations firms in the Pittsburgh area.
The Associated Press reported at the end of July that Barletta had told GOP officials and activists that he had decided to run for the Senate, but Barletta told the Times Leader as recently as Friday that he had not decided when to announce his intentions.
President Trump — frustrated with the Senate’s slim Republican majority — has previously urged Barletta to enter the race.
Barletta said previously he has talked with Trump on at least two occasions about the Senate race and has met with several Republican leaders in Congress.
“I have been very encouraged by everyone I’ve talked to,” Barletta has stated.
Barletta won his House seat during the Republican mid-term wave of 2010, aided by publicity from his time as mayor when he cracked down on immigrants in the country illegally.
Casey is running for a third, six-year term next year in a state with a 4-3 ratio registration edge over Republicans. Trump overcame that to become the first Republican since 1988 to capture Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in the presidential race. Barletta notes his Congressional seat serves a population also dominated by Democrats, though he defeated 13-term Democrat incumbent Rep. Paul Kanjorski in 2010, after Kanjorski fended off Barletta challenges in 2002 and 2008.
Casey is one of 10 Democrats nationwide defending a seat next year in a state won by Trump.