HARRISBURG — One of the candidates seeking the Republican Party nomination to challenge two-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey suggested Thursday that backing President Donald Trump will be a losing strategy in next year’s election.
Paul Addis — the only outspoken Trump critic in the GOP field in the 2018 Senate primary — also took aim at fellow GOP Senate contender Lou Barletta, a noted Trump loyalist.
But in a statement to the Times Leader on Thursday, Barletta’s campaign spokesman didn’t fire back at Addis, perhaps in a nod to party unity.
Addis, who lives in Delaware County, said Republican election losses this week “should be a wake-up call” for the party.
“The electorate remains angry and frustrated,” Addis said in a statement. “It’s clear they are also demanding a great deal more from politicians and campaigns than loyalty to President Trump.”
Addis, 64, is a first-time candidate who spent much of his career as an energy-sector executive and, more recently, as an investor.
Stoking anti-Trump sentiments, Democrats scored big victories in county and municipal races Tuesday across Pennsylvania, and in particular in Philadelphia’s heavily populated and moderate suburbs.
Casey, a fierce Trump critic, is seeking a third six-year term in next year’s election. The Scranton native is the son of the former state governor and is possibly the best-known political name in Pennsylvania.
Besides Addis and Barletta, two other Republicans are running in the primary for the nomination to challenge Casey — state Rep. Jim Christiana and perennial candidate Joe Vodvarka. Libertarian Dale Kerns is also in the field.
At least three candidates dropped out after Barletta joined the field in August at the urging of Trump. The fourth-term Barletta is viewed as the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination.
Barletta won his House seat during the Republican midterm wave of 2010, catapulted by the attention he received while mayor of Hazleton for cracking down on immigrants in the country illegally.
In his statement, Addis said Barletta’s Senate campaign seems to be based entirely on “hostility to immigrants and his loyalty to President Trump.”
Tuesday’s results show that sticking close to Trump is not a winning strategy, especially in the crucial Philadelphia suburbs, Addis said.
Defeating Casey will take a candidate who can appeal to registered Democrats and independent voters, said Addis, who veers away from hard-line GOP positions on gun control, health care and immigration policy.
When the Times Leader asked Barletta’s campaign for a response, a statement did not mention Addis, instead hammering away at Casey.
“Pennsylvania voted for change last year, yet politicians like Bob Casey have obstructed the president’s agenda to help workers and families at every turn,” said an emailed response from Jon Anzur, campaign spokesman for Barletta.
“Unlike Bob Casey, who won’t work with the president, Lou Barletta has a strong record of working with members of both parties and the president to get things done for the people of Pennsylvania. Lou Barletta is focused on fighting for the people he represents, cutting taxes for the middle class, and defeating Bob Casey.”
Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point last year, as the state backed a Republican for president for the first time since 1988 and helped Trump capture the White House.
March 6 is the deadline for major party candidates to file enough voter signatures to get on the ballot for the May 15 primary.