Republican Congressman Lou Barletta’s official entry into the battle to unseat Democratic US Sen. Bob Casey next year may be causing another Republican candidate to look for a way out.
Both Democratic and Republican sources from around the state told City&State PA that rumors have been simmering for months that Jeff Bartos, a Main Line real estate executive, might drop his senatorial ambitions if a candidate with higher name recognition – like Barletta – entered the race. Several of those same sources said he had talked about running for lieutenant governor instead.
This week, Bartos pointedly defended gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner from criticism of an anti-Semitic comment Wagner made about billionaire George Soros’ Jewish heritage – one indication that he may be seeking to align himself with a campaign for governor.
Insiders also pointed to Bartos’ small TV ad buy as another sign that he was pivoting. A week-long string of cable ads promoting his Senate run went dark on Wednesday – the same day as Barletta’s announcement – and does not appear to have been renewed by press time. Although it still sports Senate campaign images and videos, the title of the "Jeff Bartos for Senate" Facebook page was recently edited to simply read "Jeff Bartos."
Bartos and his campaign did not respond to several requests for comment.
However, PA GOP chair Val DiGiorgio was quick to dismiss these rumors.
“Neither Jeff Bartos nor anyone from his campaign has told me that he is doing anything other than running for United States Senate at this point,” he said.
Some said that Bartos had hoped his connections to Bob Asher, a major Republican fundraiser, would keep Barletta out of an already crowded primary. Figures like state Reps. Rick Saccone and Jim Christiana, wealthy businessman Paul Addis, Berwick Borough Councilman Andrew Shecktor, to name a few, have all announced their intention to run for the Republican Senate nomination.
An official announcement one way or the other is unlikely until a meeting of state committee members in late September, which is traditionally used by candidates as a final gauge of their statewide support for various races. There are currently no declared Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, although names previously mentioned for the position include PA Sen. Dave Argall and former PA Secretary of Revenue Dan Meuser.