Jeff Bartos, a Montgomery County Republican, is taking steps toward a run for U.S. Senate, signaling that he is likely to formally join the race in the coming weeks.
“I am very seriously considering a run for the Senate,” Bartos said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We’re taking the next steps toward making it official.”
Bartos, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, said he will be calling community, business, and party leaders to discuss his plans, and will begin raising money for a potential campaign “in the next couple weeks.” He said he plans to make a formal decision by mid-March.
Bartos, a real estate developer from Lower Merion, will likely be one of many Republicans joining the contest for a seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican who is not seeking reelection in 2022.
The primary is shaping up as an early test of how the Republican Party will approach politics after former President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House.
Bartos, 48, has spent much of the last year leading the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, which has distributed more than $3 million in forgivable loans to more than 1,000 small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I hear time and again that these small business owners on Main Street, they just feel completely abandoned. We’ve taken up the mantle of fighting for them,” Bartos said in a pitch that sounded likely to be part of a campaign. “I feel that having spoken to all these women and men around all 67 counties, they need someone fighting for them.”
Bartos began a brief run for Senate in 2017 before switching to the lieutenant governor’s race, and has struck up a friendship with the Democrat he opposed in that contest, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. They could again be opponents — Fetterman is also making moves toward a 2022 Senate run — but Fetterman praised Bartos on Tuesday after news broke about his intentions.
“Love that dude,” Fetterman wrote on Twitter, adding, “A truly great dude that would elevate the conversation in Pennsylvania.”
Former U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, of Chester County, has also taken steps toward seeking the Republican nomination in what is expected to be a crowded competition for both parties.
For Republicans, the 2022 elections for governor and Senate will test whether the GOP follows the path that Trump paved to much success in 2016, or attempts to pivot away from a style of politics that then cost them the White House, Senate, and House in subsequent elections.
Bartos, a longtime fund-raiser with ties to Pennsylvania’s Republican establishment, ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 as a more reserved partner to the combustible Scott Wagner.
Bartos said he voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020, and supported many of the former president’s policies, including on Israel and Iran.
“The president and the way he went about his work, millions and millions of Americans felt for the first time in a long time there was someone fighting for them,” Bartos said.
He acknowledged, though, that many opposed Trump with equal passion — “I live in Lower Merion, for God’s sake” — and that “we have to get past the bombast.”