Kathy Barnette and the Pennsylvania primary
In February 2022, I attended the Republican State Committee Meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Our job, as state committee members, was to interview, vet, select, and support endorsed candidates through the primary and election cycles.
This election cycle, for the first time in decades, the top three positions for governor, lieutenant governor, and Senate in Pennsylvania are "open seats." An open seat is when no incumbent is running, due to term limits or resignations. Open seats always draw more candidates. But this cycle, we Republican state committee members were called upon to complete the endorsement process for approximately 30 candidates, running for the three top open seats.
For a number of reasons — multiple multi-millionaire candidates willing to go the distance self-funded, the unlikelihood of any candidate dropping out, the specter of endorsed candidates rejected by the primary voters — State Committee participants made the very rare decision not to endorse.
Wrongly, the general sentiment was that multiple candidates, lagging in the polls, would drop out. They haven't.
Because the Republicans and Democrats battled over redistricting until mid-March, thereby truncating the legal petition signing from three weeks to ten days, the general sentiment was that multiple candidates wouldn't be able to obtain the requisite petition signatures to appear on the ballot and would be forced to drop out. That didn't happen, either.
Thus, unless the 30-something candidates had been previously vetted on other aspects of their respective lives, the normal vetting process did not occur, due to the exigent time restrictions and the sheer number of candidates.
Ms. Kathy Barnette, who is running for the U.S. Senate, ran two years ago for a different position. She lost mightily. Much has been made of the canceling and then reinstating of Barnette's political website. But not much has been made of an important former political position Barnette held just two years ago, and then canceled.
In 2020, Barnette ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. Then-president Trump had decided, after multiple statues had been toppled, that he was going to create a United States Garden of Statues. Trump issued a list of 250 candidates, from all the centuries of America's existence and diverse areas of life, to be included in the Garden. Barack Obama was not on Trump's list. Barnette thought Obama should be included and highlighted this belief on her political website.
This author, assuredly among others, asked Barnette to remove Obama from her website. While one understood Barnette's pride in a fellow African American having been president, a Republican candidate should not be so moved. Or at least not so publicly. Barnette's advocacy for Obama was not removed!
What is emerging, through Barnette's own words, is a candidate who thinks America is systemically racist, now, in 2022, and that Barnette is running in the wrong party.
Barnette has a résumé of lists. Generic products without brand names: adjunct professor — where and when? Military service for ten years: where and when?
So now it is up to the primary voters. A good bet is that the State Committee will not forgo candidate endorsements ever again.
Lynne Lechter is a practicing litigator in the Philadelphia area and a proud member of the Republican Party for over thirty years.
Photo credit: Twitter screen grab.