U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta is enjoying getting to know the voters in his bus ride across Pennsylvania.
Having served in the U.S. House of Representatives for eight years, Barletta, a Republican, is challenging two-term incumbent Sen. Bob Casey for his seat in the U.S. Senate.
Barletta's trek across the commonwealth began Monday with a stop at an Allentown dog treat maker that, he said, employs autistic and developmentally-disabled young people.
"It was a great stop for Reilly," he said of his 4-year-old golden retriever, who is traveling with him and who he calls a "great campaigner."
On Wednesday morning, Barletta, 62, stopped for breakfast at Chuck Tanner's Restaurant, hosted by Lawrence County Republican Party chairman Gale Measel before going on to Beaver County, then Pittsburgh.
The father of four daughters said he had not intended to go into politics,
"My wife and I in 1984 began a road line painting business with $29.95," he said. He sold that business, Interstate Road Paving Corp., in 2000. 'It had grown to the largest business of that kind in Pennsylvania, the sixth largest in the United States," he said.
The trip, Barletta said, has taught him to be a good listener, hearing what the voters are saying. His campaign platform includes keeping jobs in Pennsylvania by teaching people job skills that make them employable and opening borders to legal immigrants, not to those "with shady pasts who seem intent on sneaking in."
A long-time critic of the U.S. immigration policy and former mayor of Hazelton, Barletta, a grandson of immigrants, in effect "closed" his city to illegal immigrants in 2007 by passing the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, which penalized landlords and employers for housing or hiring illegal immigrants. It was later struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I'm not opposed to immigrants," he said. "But if they want to come, they should do it legally. They try to beat the system by coming in with children and jumping ahead of others who are following the law. That is unfair."
Regarding parents being separated from children at border crossings, Barletta said he believes that not all children coming through borders are accompanied by their parents.
"The drug cartel brings children from Guatemala and Honduras. They are human traffickers."
An early supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Barletta enjoys Trump's support. Trump campaigned for Barletta on Aug. 2 in Wilkes-Barre.
"I support his tax cuts. The stock market is strong. It seems the country is in good shape since he's come into office."