Former President Donald Trump is urging Pennsylvania Republicans to reject up-and-coming Senate nominee Kathy Barnette in a Tuesday primary amid controversial remarks from the past that make her a tougher sell in the general election.
Trump endorses TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz before voting in what appears to be a three-way race against Barnette, a hot-headed political commentator and failed candidate for the 2020 House of Representatives, and businessman David McCormick.
“She lost her race as a congressional candidate by more than 20 points. She was hit really hard,” Trump said on a Thursday night conference call shared by Oz’s campaign.
“The problem is nobody knows what she is, what she stands for, who she is. It’s very risky because you’re going to win this with Oz,” Trump added.
“Kathy will cause a lot of trouble. I think she’s going to cause a lot of trouble,” Trump said. “She may have a bright future, but she is completely unknown. We can’t have that. So a vote for Oz is a vote for victory, and a vote for anyone else is a vote for giving away an election that really needs to happen. We have to find a majority in the Senate.”
But Barnette, who has wooed conservatives with her outspoken comment, wrote Friday on Twitter: “Remember when they told you President Trump was ineligible and then he won? … The ‘experts’ have no idea.”
Barnette is essentially level with Oz and McCormick in at least three recent polls. The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls put them at 21 percent, Oz at 23.3 percent, and McCormick at 20.3 percent.
Barnette has built a following by addressing prominent social issues — like what appears to be the Supreme Court’s imminent rollback of state abortion rights. She says her mother was raped by her father but chose not to terminate the pregnancy.
But she has also written that she did not vote for Trump in the 2016 primary, which her political opponents are circulating ahead of Election Day.
Many senior Republicans are concerned Barnette would allow Democrats to flip a seat held by retired Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) – potentially spoiling GOP plans to regain control of the Senate.
Nationally, Republicans are favored to win the Midterms, partly due to public anger over four decades of high inflation, but Senate elections often depend on candidate merit.
Grassroots favorites have ruined Republican fortunes in the past. For example, in 2010, Republicans in Delaware nominated misfit Christine O’Donnell, who lost in a landslide after famously denying that she was a witch in a television commercial. Their disgruntled primary victory derailed an anticipated election cruise by longtime GOP Rep. Mike Castle, an ex-governor.
The Oz campaign dubbed Barnette “Chuck Schumer’s favorite candidate” in an email blast on Friday amid news reports of her frequent politically incorrect comments on Islam and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
An Oz supporter told The Post that Barnette “isn’t ready for primetime and a voice for her would make Chuck Schumer’s dream come true.”
Barnette, 50, has shot out of relative obscurity in recent weeks and would become the state’s first black senator.
But her history of colorful comments emerges – including past false claims that President Barack Obama is a Muslim and a claim that “Pedophilia is a cornerstone of Islam.”
She warned that gay marriage could be a step toward blessing the relationship between an “elderly man and a 12-year-old child.”
“Two men sleeping together, two men holding hands, two men caressing each other, that’s not normal,” she said on her radio show in 2015, CNN reported this week.
Oz, who would become the first Muslim senator in US history, has lobbied strongly for Trump’s support but has been targeted for his work for Turkish Airlines and his participation in Turkish elections. McCormick, meanwhile, has come under scrutiny about his dealings in China and India but can boast the support of many former Trump aides, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pennsylvania Lt. gov. John Fetterman is favored to win the Democratic primary.