BRIDGEWATER — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lou Barletta said Wednesday during a visit to Beaver County that Sen. Bob Casey has “gotten so extreme” in opposing President Donald Trump at every turn that he no longer represents mainstream Pennsylvania values.
“He’s one of the leaders of the resistance,” Barletta said during an interview at The Times office in Bridgewater. “Senator Casey would do well in California representing the people there or maybe the people in Massachusetts, but that’s not the values of the people of Pennsylvania.”
In a half-hour conversation, Barletta, a U.S. House member and former Hazleton mayor, also stressed that voters have not heard about his government work, such as saving billions in taxpayer money by changing the way federal leases are done or fighting for a program to steer troubled students away from gangs, because the media has focused on his opposition to illegal immigration and close ties to Trump.
“I’ve been a blue-collar congressman who fights for people,” Barletta said. “I’m a worker. I’m going to work for the people.”
Barletta came to the county as part of his “Red, White and Lou” bus tour across the state. He visited the Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant site in Potter Township, held a meet-and-greet with voters at Mario’s Woodfired Pizzeria in Beaver and stopped at Beemac Trucking in Harmony Township.
Casey, a Scranton resident, was elected in 2006 as a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment moderate Democrat, but has evolved into a darling of the far left, opposing Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick before a name was even announced and fighting the GOP tax cuts, Barletta said.
“He has followed the path of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren,” said Barletta, name-dropping the two most prominent progressive senators targeted by conservatives.
Casey has called for tighter gun laws in the wake of repeated mass shootings and walked a fine line on abortion rights by voting for a 20-week ban earlier this year yet opposing Republican efforts to curtail access to contraception and defund Planned Parenthood.
Trump held a rally in Wilkes-Barre last week in which he attacked Casey and endorsed Barletta, who was co-chairman of Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania in 2016 and served on his White House transition team’s executive committee.
Barletta said the media keeps asking about his ties to Trump hurting his political chances, but on Wednesday Barletta touted the economy, tax cuts, recent jobs numbers, improved relations with North Korea, the fight against ISIS and Trump’s commitment to helping state’s like Pennsylvania with fair trade deals.
As for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and other controversies swirling around Trump, Barletta said voters are not concerned. “Nobody talks to me about that other than the media,” he said.
Instead, he said voters care about other issues. “People care more about how they’re doing at home, how their jobs are,” Barletta said. “They care more about securing their borders.”
Having a senator who has the president’s ear would benefit Pennsylvanians, Barletta said.
“I think I’m the right person at the right time,” he said. “I think giving Bob Casey 18 years is way too much when most people can’t tell me what he’s done in 12.”
Barletta rose to prominence during his time as mayor fighting illegal immigration, culminating in the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. The ordinance allowed Hazleton to fine landlords for leasing to illegal immigrants and to deny business permits to companies that hired illegal immigrants.
The ACLU challenged the law in federal court where it was eventually blocked. Hazleton was later ordered to pay the ACLU $1.4 million for its legal fees.