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A Never Trump Republican from Philadelphia is eyeing next year’s U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania

Craig Snyder, a business and political consultant, was a top aide to moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the mid-1990s.

Craig Snyder, right, then-president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, speaks with Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist in the Trump administration, in 2019.
Craig Snyder, right, then-president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, speaks with Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist in the Trump administration, in 2019.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

The Never Trump wing of the Republican Party may have a candidate in next year’s U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania.

Craig Snyder, a Philadelphia business and political consultant who started a super PAC in 2016 to support Hillary Clinton, said Wednesday that he’s considering running for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Snyder, 59, served as chief of staff for the moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the mid-1990s. He said he’s intrigued by the prospect of reclaiming the seat his old boss held for three decades and returning it to “the non-Trump brand of Republicanism that I believe in.”

“What I’ve been doing, quietly, at this point, is reaching out to some folks who’d hopefully help with the infrastructure and resources of the campaign,” Snyder said in an interview Wednesday, adding he hasn’t made a firm decision yet. “So far, I’ve been getting encouragement.”

» READ MORE: Pat Toomey's retirement makes the 2022 elections in Pennsylvania a total free-for-all

Snyder last fall finished an eight-year stint as president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, a public policy nonprofit. He’s now president and CEO of Indigo Global LLP, a consulting and communications firm, where his clients include a political action committee “devoted to ending climate denialism in Congress.” He’s also a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.

Even as former President Donald Trump faces a historic second impeachment trial next week, he still holds strong influence over the GOP and the party’s voters. Philadelphia is hardly known as a launching pad for Republicans to win statewide campaigns, as the city and its suburbs have grown increasingly Democratic and the party’s base of support has shifted to rural and postindustrial areas of Pennsylvania.

But Snyder is betting that in what’s likely to be a crowded GOP primary, pro-Trump voters could split their support among several candidates. And he said there will be “a segment of voters that want somebody who is clearly and has been clearly anti-Trump.”

“They want the future of the party to be defined in opposition to Trumpism,” he said.

Snyder, asked if he would convict Trump at his impeachment trial were he in the Senate, said: “Based on what I know today, I would vote to convict.”

He also said that President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package is too big and that he would favor more targeted aid.

The Pennsylvania race will help determine control of the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 but controlled by Democrats because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes. It will also reflect the direction of the post-Trump GOP.

» READ MORE: What unites Pennsylvania Republicans after Trump? Democrats and tightening voting laws.

Other Southeastern Pennsylvania Republicans eyeing the Senate race include Lower Merion real estate developer Jeff Bartos, former U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, and Kenneth Braithwaite, another former Specter aide who served as secretary of the Navy under Trump.

Costello has also positioned himself as an anti-Trump candidate, though the former congressman voted for Trump in 2016 before emerging as a vocal critic later. Snyder said he thinks he would be the only person in the race who opposed Trump from the outset of his first campaign.

“If the Republican Party remains the Trumpist party, we’re not going to have two functional parties in the U.S.,” Snyder said, adding that the country “needs that debate and competition.”

“Not gonna have it if the QAnon party becomes the only alternative to the Democrats,” he said.

Snyder said a potential Senate run isn’t about nostalgia or paying homage to Specter, who switched parties rather than face Toomey in a Republican primary, only to lose in the 2010 Democratic primary. Specter died in 2012.

“It’s really about the practical impact that this kind of moderate Republican can actually have in getting stuff done for the state and for the country,” Snyder said.

» READ MORE: Pennsylvania Republicans showed Trump’s grip on the party after the attack on the Capitol

Democrats considering running for the seat include Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Chester County, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb of Allegheny County, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia.

It wouldn’t be Snyder’s first run for office. He ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature in 1990, and again for Congress two years later. He served as Specter’s chief of staff from 1996 to 1997 and then cofounded Ikon Public Affairs, a lobbying and political consulting firm, with Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative whom Trump pardoned last year after he had faced a prison sentence for lying to Congress.

Snyder said that in his vision of the GOP, the party stands for people who believe “there is a lot more that is good about America than is bad, and a lot more that should be preserved rather than radically transformed.”

It should also stand for capitalism, a muscular foreign policy, and a rejection of identity politics, he said.