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PA-Gov: Trump's Political Godfather Is Back & This Time He's Running For Governor

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UNITED STATES - JUNE 13: Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Here’s the latest news today out of Pennsylvania:

Lou Barletta, the Republican Party’s Donald Trump-endorsed nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018, is running for governor of Pennsylvania.

Barletta, 65, becomes the most prominent figure to enter a 2022 governor’s race that Republicans have won every time in the past half-century when there is an outgoing Democratic governor and a first-term Democratic president.

Barletta, a former Hazleton mayor and four-term member of Congress, has far more electoral experience than any other potential challenger for the GOP nomination. That includes having introduced himself to voters in a statewide campaign in his 2018 loss to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

“So people know me,” Barletta said in an interview. “I’m starting out with that advantage as well as I had 2.1 million votes in 2018. And that’s a good start as well.”

Barletta said that, if elected, he would focus on boosting the state’s economy, while also aiming to overhaul Pennsylvania’s election law and fight illegal immigration, a long-time pet issue for Barletta that helped build his political reputation.

Friendly reminder, Sen. Casey defeated Barletta in 2018 56%-43%. That is Sen. Casey’s second biggest winning margin in the three races he’s won. Casey defeated Rick Santorum in 2006 59%-41% in 2006 and Tom Smith 54%-45% in 2012.

As Mother Jones highlighted a few years ago, Barletta has earned the reputation as being Trump’s Political Godfather:

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) told GOP leaders he would run for Senate in 2018, becoming the highest-profile Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in what may be one of the most hotly contest races of 2018. If Barletta runs he won’t have the field to himself; a handful of state reps and two businessmen have already announced, but as a Trump supporter with a congressman’s clout, he’d be a likely front-runner.

His candidacy is significant for reasons beyond the electoral math. Something as monumental and era-defining as the election of President Donald Trump has many authors and origin stories, but you could make a case that the nation’s current arc began in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in 2006, when Barletta, then the city’s mayor, found himself on the defensive after passing a harsh new city ordinance designed to force undocumented immigrants to flee town. (As the Washington Post noted at the time, “Barletta wore a bulletproof vest [to the vote] because, he says, Hazleton is menaced by a surge in crime committed by illegal immigrants.”)

The so-called Illegal Immigration Relief Act targeted immigrants where they lived by making it a crime to lease housing to anyone without proper papers, and it was one of the first of what would become a nationwide push by conservative municipalities and states to encourage “self-deportation” by making life impossible for immigrants. Looking for help, Barletta placed a call to a young law professor in Kansas City named Kris Kobach. Barletta’s ordinance was going to get thrown out in the courts, but Kobach helped him draft a new one that he believed wouldn’t, and agreed to represent Hazleton in the face of the subsequent legal challenges.

And Barletta’s anti-immigration extremism attracted some pretty horrible people:

Rep. Lou Barletta, an immigration hardliner running in a crowded US Senate primary in Pennsylvania, came in contact over the years with fringe organizations and individuals with views far outside the mainstream of American politics, a CNN KFile review of his public appearances over the past decade reveals.

Prior to serving in Congress for the last seven years, Barletta was the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he enacted tough measures to crack down on illegal immigration, including an act that allowed the city to impose fines on landlords who rented to undocumented immigrants and deny permits to businesses who employed them (the ordinance was struck down in federal court).

As mayor, Barletta did an interview with a fringe publication that promotes Holocaust denial and headlined a rally where a political activist and musician who has questioned the Holocaust and promoted conspiracies about the September 11, 2001 attacks also spoke and performed. As a congressman, Barletta appeared on a panel put on by the controversial Youth for Western Civilization and spoke at an event hosted by a journal that pushes extreme anti-immigrant views.

It remains to be seen who else will jump into the race to succeed outgoing Governor Tom Wolf (D. PA) and when Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D. PA) will make his announcement but either way, we need to be ready because Pennsylvania is already a huge political hot spot. Click below to donate and get involved with these Pennsylvania Democrats campaigns:

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