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With Trump urging, Barletta mulls run against Casey

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Lou Barletta, the former Hazleton mayor who became one of President Trump's earliest supporters in Pennsylvania, is mulling a run against Sen. Bob Casey.

The Luzerne County Republican said Wednesday that he talked with Trump this week and had been encouraged by others to consider challenging Casey, a Democrat seeking his third term.

"I'm going to sit down and talk with my family and determine what steps I need to take from there," Barletta said. The Associated Press first reported his interest in the race.

A Barletta bid for the Senate in 2018 could be seen as a measure of Trump's lasting support in Pennsylvania. He won the state in November, a victory that ended nearly three decades of Keystone State losses by GOP presidential nominees and was seen as a cornerstone of his election.

Barletta gained prominence last year as half of a team of Pennsylvania Republican surrogates then-candidate Trump dubbed "Thunder and Lightning." (The other was Rep. Tom Marino, though Trump never specified which was Thunder and which was Lightning). Once reliably working-class Democratic, Northeast Pennsylvania became one of the regions that swung for Trump.

Barletta said one aim in moving to the Senate would be to help advance the president's agenda. "Obviously the people of Pennsylvania would like to see the things he campaigned on become a reality," he said.

He did not say whether  Trump pledged to support him if he ran.

The four-term congressman previously made his name for his tough stand against illegal immigration as the mayor of Hazleton. Trump's backing would be a boon, though Barletta comes from a small media market and would have to make up significant fund-raising ground: He had $341,000 in his campaign fund as of his last report, compared with  $3.8 million for Casey.

Four other Republicans have filed to run: State Rep. Rick Saccone, Jeff Bartos, Andrew Shecktor, and Paul Delong. State Rep. Jim Christiana has declared his candidacy, though he has not filed paperwork.