Real estate investor enters Pennsylvania’s US Senate race

April 24, 2017 GMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A new face has joined the crowd vying to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in 2018.

Real estate investor Jeffrey Bartos announced Monday that he will seek the Republican Party nomination to challenge Casey, although Bartos like every other announced challenger to Casey thus far is a political unknown.

Casey, the 56-year-old son of a late former governor, is one of Pennsylvania’s best-known politicians and has emerged as a fierce critic of President Donald Trump. He plans to seek a third six-year term in next year’s election in a state where Democrats maintain a 4-3 ratio registration edge over Republicans.

One advantage Bartos has over the rest of the existing GOP field is the ability to make a substantial campaign donation to himself. He also has connections to southeastern Pennsylvania’s business community, influential GOP campaign donors and political elite, having served on the board of a political action committee chaired by Pennsylvania’s Republican national committeeman, Bob Asher.

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In a brief interview Monday, Bartos characterized Casey as being out of touch with average Pennsylvanians after 10 years in the Senate.

“Bob Casey’s left Pennsylvania behind,” Bartos said. “He’s become Washington.”

The Democratic Party released a statement calling Bartos the candidate of the “party of Trump” and suggesting that Bartos has failed at both politics and real estate.

Bartos, 44, of Montgomery County, has never run for office, although he flirted with a run for U.S. House in last year’s election. He made the formal announcement of his candidacy by releasing a 90-second video that starts with showing himself driving around Reading and blaming its urban decay on Casey while Washington, D.C., booms. The video appears to use a stock image from China to depict a construction crane in Washington.

Those already announcing their candidacy or filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission include Republican state Reps. Rick Saccone and Jim Christiana, Republican Berwick borough councilman Andrew Shecktor and Libertarian Dale Kerns of suburban Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, members of Congress and top state lawmakers have quietly gauged their chances against Casey in private talks with fundraisers and party leaders.

Bartos is pitching himself as a conservative and an outsider. He is opposed to abortion rights and would oppose efforts to broaden background checks on firearms, such as legislation backed by Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Pat Toomey.

He is also allying himself with Trump, saying the new Republican president has gotten off to an “outstanding start” on the economy, energy policy and dealings in the Middle East and with foreign powers.

Bartos supports the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall proposed by Trump and, like Toomey, would take a harder line on immigration, rejecting the bipartisan compromise that passed the Senate in 2013.