HARRISBURG, Pa. — One of the candidates seeking the Republican Party nomination to challenge two-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey suggested Thursday that backing President Donald Trump will be a losing strategy in next year’s election.
Paul Addis — the only outspoken Trump critic in the GOP field in the Senate primary — said that the Republican election losses this week “should be a wake-up call” for the party.
“The electorate remains angry and frustrated,” Addis said in a statement. “It’s clear they are also demanding a great deal more from politicians and campaigns than loyalty to President Trump.”
Addis, 64, is a first-time candidate who spent much of his career as an energy-sector executive and, more recently, as an investor.
Stoking anti-Trump sentiments, Democrats scored big victories in county and municipal races on Tuesday across Pennsylvania, and in particular in Philadelphia’s heavily populated and moderate suburbs.
Casey, a fierce Trump critic, is seeking a third six-year term in next year’s election. The Scranton native is the son of the former state governor and is possibly the best-known political name in Pennsylvania.
Also running are three Republicans — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, state Rep. Jim Christiana and perennial candidate Joe Vodvarka — and Libertarian Dale Kerns.
At least three candidates have dropped out after Barletta joined the field in August at the urging of Trump. The fourth-term Barletta is a staunch supporter of Trump and is viewed as the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination.
Barletta won his House seat during the Republican midterm wave of 2010, catapulted by the attention he received while mayor of the small city of Hazleton for cracking down on immigrants in the country illegally.
In his statement, Addis also attacked Barletta, saying his opponent’s campaign seems to be based entirely on “hostility to immigrants and his loyalty to President Trump.”
Tuesday’s results show that sticking close to Trump is not a winning strategy, especially in the crucial Philadelphia suburbs, Addis said.
Defeating Casey will take a candidate who can appeal to registered Democrats and independent voters, said Addis, who veers away from hard-line GOP positions on gun control, health care and immigration policy.
But in recent weeks, Barletta has maintained that support for Trump is stronger than a year ago — despite his deteriorating polling performances — because voters feel betrayed by members of Congress who are not supporting Trump.
Barletta’s campaign did not respond directly to Addis on Thursday, but said Barletta has a “strong record” of working with members of both parties and Trump.
Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point last year, as the state backed a Republican for president for the first time since 1988 and helped Trump capture the White House.
March 6 is the deadline for major party candidates to file enough voter signatures to get on the ballot for the May 15 primary election.