HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A one-time chief of staff to the late former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and a longtime lobbyist and political consultant from Philadelphia will run for U.S. Senate as an anti-Trump Republican, and sees a crowded GOP primary as a key ally.
Craig Snyder, who backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign against then-Republican nominee Donald Trump, announced his candidacy Wednesday and aimed it squarely at middle-of-the-road voters.
The seat is opening up with the retirement in 2023 of two-term Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania’s Republican and Democratic primaries are already crowded for what is expected to be one of the nation's most competitive contests for Senate in next year's election.
In his announcement video, Snyder attacks both “Trumpism” and “socialism,” notes that Republicans lost the White House and both chambers of Congress in the last two federal elections and laments that centrist voters have come to see the Republican Party as “even crazier” than the ultra-left wing.
Snyder, 60, criticizes Trump-era policies on immigration and health care, but most of all the perceived refusal of Republicans to unequivocally condemn white supremacists or oppose efforts to hold responsible the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“In next year’s election, this party must again decide what it stands for and why it deserves the support of a majority of all voters," he said in his announcement video.
Republicans already running include conservative commentator Kathy Barnette; real estate investor Jeff Bartos, the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor; Sean Parnell, an author who wrote about his experience fighting in the war in Afghanistan; and Carla Sands, the wealthy former ambassador to Denmark under Trump.
Parnell and Barnette both ran for the U.S. House unsuccessfully last year. Snyder lost a U.S. House race in 1992.
The crowded GOP primary field includes several other relative unknowns and Snyder, who voted for President Joe Biden last November, sees it as an ally.
He expects that Trump loyalists in the Republican Party — polling shows it to be around 60% of Republican voters, he said — could be split up among five or more primary candidates. Snyder would target the 40% of Republican voters who see themselves as more loyal to the party and conservatism, he said.
There is some historical precedent for winning with less than 40% of primary voters, he said.
Tom Ridge won Pennsylvania's Republican primary for governor in 1994 with under 35% of the vote, while Dick Thornburgh won the Republican primary for governor in 1978 with under 33% of the vote.
"This is a very doable proposition and we’re going to do it," Snyder said.
The campaign is very simple, he said.
Snyder said he will ask every candidate in the primary to answer two questions: did Biden fairly win Pennsylvania's presidential election in 2020? And was the “Jan. 6 event” at the U.S. Capitol a violent attempt to block the peaceful transfer of power in the United States?
“There’s only one acceptable answer to those questions, and that is ‘yes’ and ‘yes,’ without any equivocation," Snyder said.
Snyder predicted that he will be the only candidate who will answer both questions affirmatively.
He may be right.
Snyder's entry into the race comes as Barnette, Bartos, Parnell and Sands are to one degree or another embracing Trump-inspired calls for an “audit” of Pennsylvania's 2020 election, a cause heartily pushed by Trump's most ardent supporters and fellow conspiracy theorists.
None has taken Trump to task for his election falsehoods, or blamed him for whipping up the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In recent days, Barnette went online to say she had secured the endorsement of Michael Flynn, the convicted-but-pardoned former general and a favorite of the former president’s who is a leading purveyor of right-wing conspiracy theories.
His rivals, Snyder said, are wrong to think that Pennsylvania would elect someone who goes along with a conspiracy theory about the state being stolen by a massive fraud and someone who refuses to acknowledge the severity of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“I think they are wrong in the (Republican) primary,” Snyder said, “and I am certain they are wrong in the general election.”
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