U.S. Rep Lou Barletta talked to the Times about his political views as he runs for Senate.
U.S. Rep Lou Barletta, a Republican candidate for Senate, describes himself as a strong voice for legal immigrants.
As for illegal immigration, he points to what he believes is the negative impact they can have on schools, hospitals, wages and crime.
“I’m not afraid to say it,” he said.
Barletta, of Hazleton, was in Philadelphia last week for a series of events. He met the Times at Sweet Rainforest, a cafe inside the Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, 8046 Frankford Ave., before joining campaign aides for lunch at Moe’s Deli.
Barletta and his wife owned a successful line painting business before selling it in 2000 after he became mayor of Hazleton. He served on City Council before winning the mayor’s office in a city with a big Democratic registration edge. He was re-elected twice, then elected to Congress in 2010, ousting longtime Democratic Rep. Paul Kanjorski.
In the May 15 Senate primary, he faces state Rep. Jim Christiana, retired energy company executive Paul Addis and businessman Bobby Lawrence.
President Donald Trump and the state party have endorsed Barletta, but state Rep. John Taylor is backing Christiana. In an email exchange with fellow Rep. Mark Mustio, chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee, Taylor worried that media focus on immigration and Trump will hurt GOP legislative candidates in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Barletta said Taylor does not know him and was premature to judge him. He noted his overwhelming victories in Hazleton, which has a Latino population of 50 percent.
Barletta would be open to granting temporary legal status to young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. In exchange, the bill must provide money for a wall and other border security, change the diversity visa lottery program and end chain migration, which allows immigrants to sponsor aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives outside their immediate families.
“We should put the American people first,” Barletta said.
If Barletta gets the chance to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr., he believes contrasts will favor him.
“I’m totally against sanctuary cities,” he said.
Barletta believes “not one penny” in non-law enforcement grants should go to cities such as Philadelphia that forbid their local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials. He calls that practice “unconscionable.”
Casey voted against a bill sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey that would have stopped sanctuary cities from receiving those grants. A Democratic filibuster killed the bill.
“That would be a swing of two votes,” Barletta said of replacing Casey.
On other issues, Barletta supports Schools and Homes in Education to prevent gang activity. SHINE is an after-school program for children in kindergarten through eighth grade with an emphasis on STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). The program has worked in Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties. Barletta helped restore $1 billion in funding, and credited Democratic state Sen. John Yudichak for his support.
The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network named Barletta an Afterschool Champion for his commitment to SHINE.
“This would work very well here in Philadelphia,” he said.
Barletta supported the tax reform bill that, he said, has resulted in wage increases for most Americans and bonuses for millions of workers.
As for the debate on gun violence, Barletta favors added school security and keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill.
Democrat Matt Darragh is running again in the 170th Legislative District.
Darragh, who works for the auditor general’s office, took 46 percent of the vote two years ago against Republican Rep. Martina White.
Like then, Darragh will have to get through a primary. His opponent will be Mike Doyle, a Realtor from Parkwood.
Maggie Borski last week became the first candidate in the 177th Legislative District race to file her nominating petitions.
Borski and volunteers collected more than 450 signatures for her to get on the Democratic primary ballot for the May 15 primary.
“I am incredibly proud of our campaign and our volunteers for getting us to this important milestone. This campaign is first and foremost about helping people, and it is so inspiring to see so many people come out to support that message,” she said.
“The General Assembly needs new ideas and new energy. We are building a grassroots effort to take back Harrisburg. If you want to end the greed and gridlock, if you want to fund our schools, and if you want to make our communities safer, then I hope you will support our efforts. My full-time job will be fighting for you.”
Meanwhile, Borski celebrated her 25th birthday on Friday night with a $25 per person fundraiser at the Harmonia Club in Bridesburg.
Rob Borski, her older brother, introduced her, declaring that she will be one of the best legislators from day one, in part, because she won’t owe anyone.
The candidate, a law student and daughter of former congressman Bob Borski, said she was humbled by the turnout. Calling government “broken,” she promised to bring new energy, ideas and voices to Harrisburg.
Like the other candidates, she is meeting voters at their doors.
“I’m very pleased with the reception I’ve gotten so far,” she said.
The seat is open because Republican Rep. John Taylor is not seeking another term.
There are five other Democratic candidates: Iraq War veteran Sean Patrick Wayland; Joe Hohenstein, an immigration lawyer who took 45 percent of the vote against Taylor two years ago; union plasterer Sean Kilkenny; community activist Dan Martino; and former City Council aide Sean K. McMonagle.
Martino will be holding a fundraiser on Friday, March 9, from 7 p.m. to midnight at Juniata Golf Course, 1391 E. Cayuga St. Tickets cost $25 and include unlimited dinner and drinks. There will be a DJ, raffles and a 50/50.
Patty-Pat Kozlowski, a community activist and former city parks director, is expected to be unopposed on the Republican side.
Elijah Myers, who briefly sought the GOP nomination, is now collecting signatures to run in the 2nd Senatorial District.
Abu Edwards will challenge state Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-179th dist.) in the May 15 primary.
Edwards, who grew up in Olney, earned a political science degree in 2012 from Wilberforce University (Ohio). He is co-founder of Millennials in Action Political Action Committee and president of the Friends of Greater Olney Library.
Through Millennials in Action, he helped the successful 2017 campaigns of Deborah Canty and Vikki Kristiansson for Common Pleas Court, Rebecca Rhynhart for city controller and Carolyn Nichols for Superior Court.
Among the campaigns he’s worked on were Katie McGinty for governor and
David Wecht for Supreme Court.
Edwards will focus his campaign on quality education, safe and affordable housing and social justice reform.
Michele Lawrence, of Fishtown, will challenge U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle in the Democratic primary in the new 2nd Congressional District.
“The district lines have changed, but my commitment has not. I will run for Congress in Pennsylvania Congressional District 2, a community in which I have lived for 14 years. I am running to bring service, opportunities and solutions to the people. But my mission transcends any neighborhood or congressional boundaries. I will work to empower people through education; help them achieve economic equality; stabilize our access to affordable, quality healthcare; to allow small business owners to find success; and help people build a bridge from poverty to wealth. I look forward to earning the opportunity to serve District 2,” she said.
Lawrence had originally entered the 1st Congressional District primary, but her home is now located in the 2nd district, following the state Supreme Court’s redrawing.
Lawrence, a former Wells Fargo area president, is chief executive officer of MicheleSpeaks, a company that promotes wealth and wellness. She is a licensed minister, host of a weekly show on WWDB (860 AM) and founder of a boys leadership development institute. ••