It’s a curious choice for a man who based his reputation on alienating the mainly Dominican immigrants in his hometown. These immigrants were guilty of reviving a dying downtown district and bringing in new businesses and jobs.
My question is whether Mr. Barletta will be able to actually stand for something.
Barletta made national headlines with his efforts to drive illegal immigrants from his city, an economically struggling community on the edge of the Poconos, even going to federal court to defend city ordinances that allowed him to fine landlords who rented to illegal immigrants and employers who hired them. He was a frequent guest on Dobbs’ now-defunct TV show.
In what may be a sign of the changing times, Barletta didn’t even mention immigration in today’s announcement. Instead, he focused on the economy.
“We need sane, sensible policies to restore our economy and encourage it to grow, create good jobs, and guarantee retirees’ pensions and benefits,” he said.
Last year when he ran for Congress against a much-better funded Kanjorski, Barletta lost 52%-48%. But he outpolled Republican presidential candidate John McCain by six percentage points in Pennsylvania’s 11th congressional district. President Obama won the district with 57% of the vote.
While there are plenty of indications that next year will be a better one for Republicans, Barletta faces an uphill battle. Money, for one thing: As of Sept. 30, Kanjorski had more than $800,000 in his campaign treasury. By contrast, Barletta still had more than $263,000 in debts from the last campaign. The mayor said he’s looking forward, not back. “We’re going to raise money for the campaign in 2010, not to retire the debt,” Barletta told reporters on a conference call.
There’s also competition within the GOP. Local businessman Chris Paige is also campaigning for the Republican nomination and is attacking Barletta on his signature issue. Paige says Barletta’s plans to crack down on illegal immigration will mean a national ID card and higher taxes. “Don’t forget that any government powerful enough to round up and deport 14 million people is anything but a small limited government,” Paige writes on his website.