GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania — There are over a dozen Kathy Barnette for Senate signs attached to Doug Mastriano for Governor signs attached to Teddy Daniels for Lt. Governor signs along the roadside just outside the fairgrounds here in Westmoreland County.
It's no accident; the three of them have been running as an unofficial team for the three top statewide elected offices for months. It is unclear who lifts who up more in the polls. Does Mastriano, who holds a cult-like following, carry Barnette up? Or does she help him as people look for an alternative to Mehmet Oz and David McCormick for the Senate?
It’s probably a bit of both. Unless there is a miracle, it is inevitable that Mastriano will win the party’s nomination next Tuesday. The question becomes whether Barnette will be pulled along with him. It is possible, certainly, that former President Donald Trump tried to make that happen when he went nuclear on McCormick at the poorly attended rally held here at the fairgrounds last Friday.
The Club for Growth is also trying to make that happen with revenge money aimed at destroying Oz, because of its feud with Trump, by showering Barnette with over $1 million in advertising in the final week of the race, according to AdImpact.
It is literally like the Hatfields and the McCoys here — only without the moonshine.
Trump and the Club for Growth parted ways recently when the once-vaunted fiscal watchdog group went scorched-earth against Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance. It backed former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in that heated Republican primary race.
The question is: Who is Barnette, and why is the Club for Growth supporting her? Actually, we know why the Club for Growth is supporting her, but who is she? The answers are not that simple.
A series of questions asked both verbally and in a text exchange with her campaign manager about her background for a story that was supposed to be a profile went unanswered with the exception of one — but that too was vague. When asked about her military service, the answer was: “Kathy noted basic training was Fort Dix, Army Reserves."
Traditionally, in interviews with other military veterans, the first piece of information that is supplied to a reporter is a copy of the candidate's DD214 form — a standard form issued when one retires or separates from the military.
The other questions for her were no different or pressing than when I questioned Dr. Oz in our interview on the road in Greensburg months ago for an expansive profile piece in the Washington Examiner magazine, an interview that required two follow-up phone calls to get all of the details.
Nor were they any more pressing than what I have asked McCormick in interviews for a profile I did of him over the past few months.
Nor were they any more pressing than the interviews done with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman or state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta — both of whom are seeking the primary nomination for the Democrats.
Barnette, in her bio on her webpage, says: "Appearing regularly on national TV and radio, Kathy Barnette is a veteran, former adjunct professor of corporate finance, sought-after conference speaker, and conservative political commentator. Next up — Kathy is taking on Washington D.C. and is running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania."
The bio also reads: "Kathy served her country proudly for 10 years in the Armed Forces Reserves where she was accepted into Officer Candidacy School. She worked with two major financial firms in corporate America and sat on the board of a pregnancy crisis center for five years."
The questions to the campaign, which said it doubted whether she would have time for an interview because she was booked for interviews continuously until Election Day, were pretty straightforward and simple:
- The name of her hometown
- Where was she an adjunct professor and when?
- When was she in officer candidate school?
- What financial institutions did she work at and when?
- When did she move from Virginia to Pennsylvania? (She says in her book bio from 2018 that she lived in Virginia, so what year did she move to Pennsylvania?)
- And a confirmation that the college she graduated from was Troy State University.
The reply from the campaign manager noted, “Kathy keeps her early life as private as possible as I am sure you can understand why” — a reference one could surmise was to her life story, which she told compellingly in an ad this past week about being the child of rape.
She could be hiding nothing. She could be hiding everything. We don’t know because there are no answers. While people hold a strong distaste for the press, many level-headed conservatives who really want to win this seat in November want to know as much as they can about each candidate.
While voters may have been turned off by the battle for the primary between Oz and McCormick, the truth is both of these men have faced incredible scrutiny by both the press and their opposing campaigns. Voters at least have access to just about any information they want about them by scrolling through the countless stories that have been done about both of them.
Barnette has benefited from several things: little scrutiny and the rock-em-sock-em nature of the battle between Oz and McCormick that has been escalated by the proxy war between Trump and the Club for Growth.
Her attachment to Mastriano (who had worked to overturn the 2020 presidential election, faced a subpoena by Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Jan. 6 committee, and just attended an event that promoted QAnon propaganda) has also boosted her.
Youngstown State University political science professor Paul Sracic says Barnette has also taken better advantage of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion than her opponents: “This put abortion front and center, and she used her personal story to that advantage to possibly energize voters."
The problem is her resume: “It is very thin, to say the least.”
It is a moment that is strikingly similar to when Christine O’Donnell won the Delaware primary in 2010 for the Republicans. The then-Tea Party darling crashed and burned spectacularly. Her TV ad in which she said the following words verbatim, “I’m not a witch. I’m you,” will go down in infamy.
All candidates should face scrutiny and pointed questions about their biographies, their positions, their life experiences, and their work experiences. Barnette, to date, has not faced them. Now that she is surging, her team is trying to run out the clock.