David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner
The big crowd of Republicans eyeing a 2022 Senate bid in Pennsylvania could find themselves boxed out by Sean Parnell, who is poised to jump in and would likely immediately receive the endorsement of Donald Trump Jr.
Parnell, 39, won accolades on the Right last year for waging a spirited campaign for a Pittsburgh-area House seat, falling just short to incumbent Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb. With two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey choosing retirement over reelection, grassroots Republicans and prominent figures close to former President Donald Trump began urging Parnell to consider another run for Congress, encouragement that has put him on the verge of a Senate campaign.
Of the Republican contenders already in the race, GOP insiders consider real estate developer and 2018 GOP nominee for lieutenant governor Jeff Bartos the most serious. Others running include Trump campaign activist and Army veteran Kathy Barnette, who is black; and attorney Sean Gale, whose campaign declares in a digital ad posted to his website: “His platform is simple: He’s not Pat Toomey or a puppet of the Pennsylvania GOP swamp.
Charlie Gerow, a Republican operative in Pennsylvania, said the interest in his party in running for Senate, a missing ingredient in 2018, when Democratic Sen. Bob Casey was up for reelection, is a sign of enthusiasm, crucial if the party is to hold this seat and be in a position to recapture control of a 50-50 Senate in next year’s midterm elections.
“Two things that unite Republicans are agreement on how critical keeping this seat is — and absolute unity in opposing the constant string of progressive proposals from Joe Biden,” Gerow said.
Parnell could shake up the race and become the kind of formidable consensus candidate Republicans are looking for.
The Army combat veteran, who fought in Iraq, and bestselling novelist is beloved by the conservative grassroots and proved adept at raising money for his 2020 House campaign. With that profile, he would bridge the Republican divide between the more traditional, establishment wing of the party, and the Trump wing, which is strong in Pennsylvania and within which he already has one influential fan.
On Feb. 1, the same day Republican sources close to Parnell revealed the failed congressional candidate would mount a 2022 campaign for some office or another, Trump Jr., the 45th president’s eldest son, tweeted: “My friend [Sean Parnell] is a strong America First conservative and has my support for any office he decides to run for in 2022.!!!” Knowledgeable sources confirmed that this tweet is still operable.
That has not stopped a host of other Republicans from investigating a Senate bid, among them former Rep. Ryan Costello. He represented a suburban Philadelphia district for two terms, retiring in 2018. By the end of his short tenure, he had become an outspoken Trump critic. That reputation could sink Costello in a GOP primary, although on paper, he appears like the sort of Republican who could be successful in a general election.
The party that holds the White House tends to lose seats in Congress in midterm elections. But after Biden won Pennsylvania last November by 1.2 percentage points, taking back a state for the party Trump had captured narrowly four years earlier, Democrats are hopeful that they might defy history and flip Toomey’s seat in 2022. Running for the Democrats are Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Val Arkoosh, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Commission.
Other Democrats considering a bid include Lamb and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan. In Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania, geography matters. Fetterman, from western Pennsylvania, could be the beneficiary if the contest loads up on Democrats from the eastern half of the state.
The Washington Examiner, David M Drucker, April 10th, 2021