With a day to go before Pennsylvania’s primaries, the major races on the ballot — for governor and senator — are still very much in flux. Even as many mail-in and absentee ballots have already been cast, events of the past weekend could affect the outcomes.
In the race for the Republican nomination for governor, former Congressman Lou Barletta consolidated support as election day neared. Melissa Hart and Jake Corman both ended their longshot candidacies and endorsed Barletta on Friday. He also picked up endorsements from former governor Mark Schweiker and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, signaling perhaps that the state party establishment was finally attempting to coalesce around one candidate whom they believe could defeat the presumptive Democratic nominee, Josh Shapiro.
The influential Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, which had previously endorsed Bill McSwain for the job, switched to Barletta as well over the weekend. They called for McSwain and Dave White “to withdraw from the race and do the same for the good of our commonwealth and our country.”
READ MORE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Lou Barletta picks up key endorsements
All of this activity occurred as state senator Doug Mastriano surged to the top of the polls, topping 30 percent in the crowded field. As Mastriano rose to the top of the pack, he attracted the endorsement of one influential out-of-state Republican: former President Donald Trump. Coming as it did late in the campaign, the impact may be limited, but it was enough to spur state party officials to action in attempting to stop Mastriano, whom many view as unelectable because of his fixation on the 2020 election and association with the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
In their endorsement of Barletta, Commonwealth Partners said that Mastriano “would not be able to win the swing voters necessary to win in November.”
Former Congressman Tom Marino, a Barletta endorser, said he was “extremely disappointed” at Trump’s decision at a campaign rally this weekend. “Where in the hell is the loyalty?” Marino asked, according to footage recorded by Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. “Lou and I were the first congressmen to come out and endorse Trump in his first election,” Marino said. “We took a lot of heat about it.”
Meanwhile in the Senate race, political commentator Kathy Barnette has surged into contention, effectively tied with Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick in the polls. The RealClearPolitics polling average lists Oz, Barnette, and McComrick at 25.5 percent, 22.5 percent, and 21.8 percent, respectively, with about a quarter of voters still undecided.
Barnette’s rise has resulted in some eleventh-hour vetting of the candidate’s personal history and past statements. In this week’s Washington Examiner, columnist Salena Zito noted that we know relatively little about the woman who may be the GOP nominee for senate — and that the candidate herself has not been especially eager to fill in the gaps. Barnette’s own possible involvement with the January 6 riots drew some last-minute scrutiny, along with some of the candidate’s old tweets, which were dug up by reporters over the past few days.
Lou and I were the first congressmen to come out and endorse Trump in his first election. We took a lot of heat about it.
On the Democratic side, both races looked more placid, with Shapiro effectively unchallenged for the gubernatorial nomination and Lt. Governor John Fetterman leading a three-way race for the senate nomination. But on Friday, Fetterman suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in Lancaster. The candidate issued a statement saying he was “well on my way to a full recovery” and that his “campaign isn’t slowing down one bit.”
Fetterman leads his opponents in the RealClearPolitics polling average by a considerable margin, taking 43 percent with Conor Lamb at twelve percent and Malcolm Kenyatta at six percent.
Kyle Sammin is Broad + Liberty’s editor-at-large.