Former Congressman and Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta brought his campaign for Pennsylvania Governor to the coal region on Saturday.
About 75 people turned out to Hazle Township Community Park to see Barletta just days after he officially announced his bid to become the next Governor.
“This is a big decision to run for Govenor, not only for me but my family,” he said. “I know what we’ll be up against and I know where the attacks will be. But I had 14 good reasons to run for Governor and that’s my 4 daughters and 10 grandchildren. I want them to have a better Pennsylvania than we know right now.
That election isn’t until 2022 but in a lot of ways, the race is very much started.
Barletta’s been joined by several other Republican contenders, including State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, and Nche Zama, a heart surgeon from the Poconos.
The candidate who emerges from that stacked field of GOPers will likely face current Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in 2022.
Lou Barletta Launches Pennsylvania Governor Bid at Stop in Hazle Township
But it wasn’t Shapiro or Mastriano that was on Barletta’s mind on Saturday as he delivered a 10-minute speech to supporters sharply criticizing Gov. Tom Wolf and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The former mayor did say that he’d “put my record up against Josh Shapiro’s record any day of the week” and accused the Attorney General of standing by while Wolf unilaterally ruled over Pennsylvania during the pandemic.
Barletta repeatedly called Wolf a dictator, or at least him acting like one for more than a year now. And he wants to portray himself, basically, as Not Tom Wolf.
“When I’m Governor, I’m going to be public servant, not a dictator. I believe we have to put faith back in our people,” he said.
“We’ve had a rough year. Let’s face it, the pandemic has affected everybody. It was an experience where nobody really knew what to do. But I believe Gov. Wolf, the way he’s handled this pandemic, made it worse than it had to be,” Barletta said.
On Saturday, Barletta focused on how Wolf “literally crushed” small businesses in Pennsylvania with his inconsistent closure orders.
He said, “It didn’t have to be that way. It made no sense.”
Barletta also criticized Wolf on his handling of Pennsylvania’s nursing homes saying he threw “a match in a gas can” by sending COVID-positive patients back to facilities that weren’t able to keep them separated from other residents.
And he also railed against school closures that kept students out of classrooms for far too long. Barletta said Saturday, “We may never know the long-term effect of keeping those kids out of our schools.”
The pandemic wasn’t the only issue Barletta focused on Saturday afternoon. He briefly spelled out some of the platform on which he’ll be running. His agenda sounds a lot like a certain former President.
Law and Order
Barletta voiced support for police officers and vowed to continue his fight against illegal immigration to the United States and Pennsylvania. That’s the issue which propelled Barletta to some level of fame or infamy (depending on the media outlet reporting on it ) when he was Hazleton’s Mayor.
He told supporters that he was alone in his fight years ago and couldn’t find any help at any level of government. Barletta said we’re now experiencing the issues caused by illegal immigration and if he’s elected Governor, he’d oppose any Mayor in Pennsylvania that attempted to create a Sanctuary City as a haven for illegals.
In an interview with Coal Region Canary after the rally, Barletta acknowledged that this, again, will be a lightning rod for attacks from the media, especially.
“When I was mayor,” he said, “I didn’t back down. I’ve been tested. Some of the attacks I faced then … 15 years later, it’s hard not to see what I was saying was true.”
He reiterated that he’s “pro-immigrant but legal immigrant because that’s what America stands for.”
“Get Government Out of the Way”
During his brief stump speech, Barletta said he’s prepared to “release the entrepreneurial spirit” in Pennsylvania.
“We are going to get government out of the way and let businesses flourish again,” he said. “We’re going to curb excessive regulations. We have an opportunity like no other state in America. The energy we have under our feet – the natural gas and the coal – we can not only be exporters of energy but we can use that energy to attract manufacturers right here. We’re going to release that natural gas and be an energy state.”
“We saw bureaucrats use the pandemic to change the way we vote. Now, they want to keep it that way,” Barletta said to supporters.
He said if he’s elected he’d work to “restore confidence back in our elections” which generated a hearty applause from those attending his rally in Luzerne County Saturday.
Barletta addressed school choice Saturday, too. He promised that “no kid will be trapped in a failing school” if he’s elected.
And he also promised that, if elected, no school in Pennsylvania would be promoting and teaching Critical Race Theory, the idea that the United States was essentially founded on racism and so-called white privilege.
“We will not teach our children to hate each other,” he said.
Barletta’s Gubernatorial Campaign Strategy
After serving as Hazleton Mayor and then Congressman serving in Pennsylvania’s 11th District, Barletta launched a bid for US Senate in 2018 against Democrat Bob Casey. Barletta finished about 13% behind Casey in that race but says he’s learned a lot from that failed bid.
He believes what he’s learned will make him a stronger candidate for Governor. Barletta repeatedly referred to the massive size of Pennsylvania and how needs of people in one area are completely different from those in another.
Another factor that he believes may have had a part in his loss a couple years ago, believe it or not, is name recognition. While Barletta is as close to a household political name as you’ll find in the coal region, that’s not the case in central or western Pennsylvania.
“Sometimes you have to run once until people get to know who you are,” he told us after the rally. “People now know who I am already.”
Republican Challengers for Pennsylvania Governor
Before Barletta even gets to the General Election in November 2022, he’s going to need to basically run a separate campaign just to escape the Republican Primary next year. Mastriano rose to relative fame during the pandemic by being vocal against Wolf’s pandemic response.
That raised the Franklin County State Senator’s profile quite a bit among the Trump supporters in the Pennsylvania GOP. But Barletta reminded us of the fact that he was one of the first to endorse President Donald Trump back in 2015 before it became fashionable to do so among Republicans.
Barletta coordinated Trump’s 2016 campaign in Pennsylvania and was part of 45’s transition team after he defeated Hillary Clinton. He sounded like he’d definitely welcome an endorsement from the President in his bid for Governor.
“I would love his endorsement but I’m going to earn it,” he told us. “I’m going to earn it by showing we have the best campaign and the best chance to win the General Election. I’ve proven that I can beat Democrats in Democrat areas.
“Our next Governor should be someone who is proven. You don’t need to question what I’ll do tomorrow. Just look what I’ve done yesterday. I’ve proven that I can stand on a national stage when there’s no one else there and fight for the people I represent.”