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Pennsylvania’s new Republican attorney general candidate once bashed Trump and praised his critics

Heather Heidelbaugh was endorsed by high-profile Pennsylvania Republicans in her race for state Attorney General, but her tweets praising some of President Donald Trump's fiercest critics could present a problem in a GOP primary.

Pittsburgh trial lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh, a Republican, is running for state attorney general.
Pittsburgh trial lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh, a Republican, is running for state attorney general.Read moreHeidelbaugh campaign (custom credit)

A Republican trial lawyer in Pittsburgh who drew national attention a decade ago in a lawsuit against a now-defunct liberal group that had been accused of voter registration fraud said Tuesday she would run for Pennsylvania attorney general next year.

Heather Heidelbaugh, a partner with Leech Tishman and a former Allegheny County councilwoman, was immediately endorsed by high-profile Pennsylvania Republicans like U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and former Sen. Rick Santorum. But her Twitter posts praising some of President Donald Trump’s fiercest critics could present a problem in a GOP primary.

When former CIA Director John Brennan wrote on Twitter in March 2018 that Trump was a “disgraced demagogue,” Heidelbaugh shared the post and responded: “Thank you sir for standing up. Please help this country fight back.”

Trump had been celebrating the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe, an occasion Trump described as a “great day for Democracy.”

The following month, when former FBI Director James Comey promoted the publication of his new book, Heidelbaugh responded: “Excellent interview. I believe and support you. Thank you for your service to this nation.”

Trump’s firing of Comey in 2017 amid the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Comey has since emerged as a leading Trump critic and one of the president’s favorite targets.

Asked about the tweets on Tuesday, Heidelbaugh said: “I’m running for attorney general. I want the support of all the people. I very much respect the right of people to express their opinions.”

More recently, in March, when a Washington Post columnist wrote an article titled “Trump boldly asserts that he has learned nothing these past two years,” she praised the piece and suggested Trump had “no understanding of history, the constitution or civics.”

In an interview Tuesday, Heidelbaugh, who cochairs a Pennsylvania commission on federal judicial appointments, said she supported many of Trump’s judicial nominees. Asked if there are areas of disagreement between her and Trump, she said, “I would prefer he use Twitter less.”

Heidelbaugh said the job of attorney general would be a “destination — not a stepping stone to some other office.” Incumbent Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, is widely seen as a potential front-runner in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

“I would hope I would put my head down,” Heidelbaugh said.

“I want to represent people,” she added. “I want to prevent them from crime, I want to protect the elderly, protect victims.”

Heidelbaugh represented the Pennsylvania GOP in a 2008 lawsuit against ACORN, a national liberal community organizing group. The unsuccessful lawsuit targeted ACORN’s voter registration efforts. Some of the group’s employees were convicted of voter registration fraud. Congress defunded the organization in 2009.