BY: JOHN L. MICEK – MAY 12, 2022 12:43 PM
The top-ranking Republican in the Pennsylvania Senate dropped his faltering bid for governor on Thursday, urging GOP voters to coalesce around former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, as establishment Republicans frantically work to head off a primary win by an insurgent candidate whom they view as unelectable.
“I’m putting party first and supporting someone who can win in November,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, said during a Thursday news conference. ” … As a Republican Party, this is a time we need to coalesce, and I would urge other candidates to think the same way.”
Despite decades of experience in Harrisburg and a proven ability to fundraise for Republicans, Corman struggled to break out a large and varied GOP primary pack.
That’s allowed the man that the GOP is trying to stop, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, who has ties to former President Donald Trump, and who has spread baseless claims of election fraud, to emerge as one of the leading candidates ahead of the May 17 party primary.
Barletta, the former mayor of Hazleton who spent four terms on Capitol Hill, argued Thursday that he’s the candidate best-positioned to defeat Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running without opposition in next week’s intra-party contests.
Barletta, who made national headlines for his hardline policies targeting undocumented immigrants, pointed to his executive experience running the northeastern Pennsylvania city, as well as his defeat of veteran U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski in a district that had long favored Democrats. In 2016, Barletta, along with former U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, was among Trump’s earliest Pennsylvania supporters.
On Thursday, Barletta said he had a “history of beating Democrats,” glossing over his 13-point loss to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in a 2018, where he ran with Trump’s active encouragement and support.
Corman’s withdrawal from the race is likely to have little practical effect on the Republican nominating contest. He had been polling at the back of the GOP primary pack, with Mastriano leading by an average of 10 points, according to the RealClear Politics polling average.
Because of the lateness of his announcement, he also will remain on the statewide ballot, rendering his announcement, which comes about a month after an initial report that he planned to withdraw, largely a symbolic one.
Shapiro, meanwhile, recently aired an ad attacking Mastriano by tying him to Trump, a move that political observers viewed as an attempt by the presumptive Democratic nominee to pick his general election opponent. The south-central Pennsylvania Republican told LancasterOnline that he believes it will help him win.
Establishment Republicans have mounted an 11th-hour attempt to head off a Mastriano primary victory, urging other GOP hopefuls to drop their candidacies — though such a prospect is remote. Grassroots activists told the Associated Press they believe Mastriano, is too extreme to win statewide against Shapiro.
On Thursday, both Barletta and Corman declined to directly attack Mastriano, who is viewed as an icon by Christian nationalists and who commands a significant social media following.
“I haven’t said one negative word about anyone,” Barletta said. “I like Doug Mastriano, but I believe I am best-positioned to bring the party together.”