Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, speaking at a March forum of Pennsylvania Republican candidates for for governor in Pennsylvania, stressed a long view of his record.
He touted his history of electoral wins, starting with his three successful campaigns for mayor in his hometown of Hazleton, where Democrats outnumber Republicans, and his 2010 victory ousting an incumbent Democrat in the U.S. House.
Barletta, 66, who served four terms in the House, talks less about why he left that job. He challenged Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2018. Casey easily beat Barletta, who had support from then-President Donald Trump but still struggled to be financially competitive.
But Barletta’s statewide campaign gave him the kind of name recognition that has helped him top some polls of this year’s crowded GOP primary for governor.
What is Lou Barletta’s background?
While Barletta has held local or federal office for most of the last two decades, his political narrative is rooted in small business and self-reliance.
The youngest of four boys, his family worked in road construction. He wanted to play center field for the New York Yankees and dropped out of college in his junior year for a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds. A struggle to hit curveballs meant that spring training trip to Florida didn’t lead to the big leagues.
Back home in Hazleton, Barletta said he and his wife sunk an initial investment of $29.95 into a business idea in the mid-1980s, a kit to use paint to line spaces in parking lots. That business expanded and flourished as Interstate Road Marking, which he sold in 2000 as he started his first term as mayor.
Barletta’s road to Congress had a few bumps. He lost bids to unseat U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a Democrat, in 2002 and 2008. He beat Kanjorski in 2010.
What are Lou Barletta’s top policy priorities?
Like the other Republican candidates, Barletta opposes abortion, supports using tax dollars for private school tuition, and wants more natural gas drilling in the state.
But immigration has always been Barletta’s touchstone in public life.
In the March candidate forum, Barletta touted his efforts as mayor in Hazleton to enact a local ordinance making it illegal for employers to hire or landlords to rent to undocumented immigrants.
It’s a story Barletta has been telling since 2006, often casting himself as a small-town mayor who took on a task ducked by state and federal officials, drawing legal challenges. “I stood on a national stage by myself in front of an entire country and fought for the people who elected me,” Barletta said in March.
Conservative activists and groups helped Barletta in that legal struggle. The law was ultimately blocked by a federal judge and never enforced, while the losing legal battle cost Hazleton almost $1.7 million.
Who is backing Lou Barletta?
Barletta has made the obligatory GOP pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home, where candidates come courting his endorsement. Like some other candidates, he’s also hired former Trump staffers.
Barletta had Trump’s support in 2018, and he has served as Trump’s Pennsylvania campaign chair.
Barletta was competitive in fund-raising with other top-tier candidates last year, raising nearly $1 million but spending about $3 out of every $4 he raised, according to campaign finance reports filed in January. He has since fallen behind, logging jus $356,000 in the bank at the end of March.
He also has support from The 1776 Project Committee, a super PAC that has criticized Bill McSwain, the former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia who is also running for governor.
What else should I know?
Barletta in 2019 said supporters had urged him to run for state GOP chair. He instead supported a candidate backed by Trump’s camp who didn’t win.
In 2019, he relaunched his political action committee to push for hard-line immigration policies and to support private construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Barletta pledged money to that effort, known as We Build The Wall, during a July 2019 gathering in New Mexico that drew Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Barletta also runs a political consulting and government affairs firm, Pioneer Strategies, which represents companies involved in healthcare data and addiction recovery services.