Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, who waged a surprising Senate campaign in 2022 that briefly panicked GOP insiders, will not make another run for that office in 2024, she told POLITICO in an interview.
The Pennsylvania Republican, who came in third place in the GOP primary last year on a shoestring budget, said she is instead focused on helping long shot Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, for whom she is leading a grassroots organizing effort.
“Instead of playing coy, I wanted to come out and say I am not interested,” she said. “I thought about it and I wanted to be real clear.”
The news will likely come as a relief to traditional Republican leaders who are trying to unite the party around Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO and Bush administration official, in an effort to unseat Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) next year.
Party officials in Washington and Pennsylvania believe McCormick can attract suburban voters in a general election — a key voting bloc that they think abandoned them in the 2022 cycle. When Barnette ran for the Senate last year, she campaigned as an unabashed MAGA ally.
Just a day ago, Barnette appeared open to campaigning again for the Senate. Asked whether she was considering a run on conservative radio station WPHT, she said, “At this particular juncture, we have not made a decision on what it is that I’m going to do.”
Last week, Barnette’s former campaign manager, Bob Gillies, echoed her comments, saying “I don’t think she’s ruled it out yet.”
Barnette is an Army veteran who jumped to the top of the GOP field for Senate last year before finishing third between celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who captured the nomination, and McCormick. Oz went on to lose to now-Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.).
In the interview, Barnette appeared to take a swipe at past GOP nominees who lost in the general election after dominating the primary. Though she didn’t refer to him by name, that description could certainly apply to 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who she campaigned with last year during the primary. After overwhelmingly winning the primary, Mastriano lost to now-Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro by 15 percentage points.
“As a warning to Republican Pennsylvania voters, we need to take into very strong consideration not just who can win a primary in a landslide, but who will win and work extremely hard to win in the general because that’s ultimately what matters,” she said. “We have the better policy ideas, but as we have witnessed, it’s not ideas alone, but who is willing to do the hard work of getting in front of all the people and convince them.”
Barnette also criticized candidates in last year’s Senate primary who she said didn’t live in Pennsylvania. Both Oz and McCormick were tagged by their opponents as carpetbaggers during the race, which they refuted.
Asked later if she was referring to Mastriano and McCormick in her remarks, Barnette declined to comment.