Jeff Bartos doesn’t believe Pennsylvanians — especially Jews from the Keystone State — have a friend in U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
He said the 57-year-old Democrat from Scranton, who’s nearing the end of his second term, has become a political pawn of his party and needs to go.
So after spending much of his life on the political periphery as a Lower Merion real estate developer, the Republican Bartos believes he can be the man who kicks Casey to the curb in 2018.
“If you look at Sen. Casey after a decade in Washington and a lifetime in politics, it’s sad to say he has left Pennsylvania behind and become Washington, and it’s time to replace him,” the 44-year-old Bartos said. “Over the last eight years, he has supported policies that hurt economic growth — he voted for Obamacare, which put enormous regulations and taxes on American businesses.
“As it relates to Pennsylvania, he supported a carbon tax and energy-killing regulations President Obama put forward. Sen. Casey supported regulation against law-abiding gun owners — a whole host of issues which infringe upon their rights, which is a core Pennsylvania value.
“Then, as it relates to anyone who loves the State of Israel and regards it as a vital ally and a beacon of hope, Sen. Casey voted to support the Iran deal. He turned his back on his allies and on people who are concerned about the safety and security of Israel.”
That’s why Bartos, who grew up in Reading, said his heart and soul tell him he should be the one to fill Casey’s spot on the Senate floor.
The president of ESB Holdings in Lower Merion and chairman of Jewish Federation Real Estate, Bartos said he remains first a husband to his wife, Sheryl, a father to his teenage daughters, Sarah and Emily, and a concerned citizen.
“How does this relate to the average Pennsylvanian?” asked Bartos, who’ll embark next month on an Atidim mission to Israel, where Emily is playing squash for Team USA at the Maccabiah Games.
“We talk in these highfalutin words, but what does it mean to someone who’s working and trying to take care of their family? It means the staples of a middle-class life — health care, home ownership, education — are out of reach. Our argument to the voters of Pennsylvania is [that] the only way to shake up Washington and take back the Casey Senate seat is to send a tenacious outsider.”
If that message sounds comparable to the one coming from the current occupant in the White House, it’s not by accident.
While Bartos comes across as more polished than President Donald Trump, their ideologies are similar. He bitterly opposes Obamacare. He favors Trump’s recent aggressive policies toward Syria and North Korea. He’s also in favor of the president’s border wall.
And while he won’t go so far as to the label the media biased and talk about “fake news,” he’s concerned the public isn’t getting the whole picture.
“The president nominated and the Senate confirmed a world-class Cabinet,” said Bartos, who attended Trump’s 100-day rally in Harrisburg on April 29. “The president reestablished U.S. leadership on the world stage and is filling the vacuum in the Middle East that President Obama created in Syria and other places.
“What we’re seeing in the first hundred days is a complete change in attitude from the job-killing, growth-killing regulations and a renewed sense of hope America is open for business.”
Bartos lumps Casey in with Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and views him as their puppet.
That’s why you can expect Bartos — assuming he can raise the funds and build a large-enough base in a party where state Rep. Rick Saccone of Allegheny County, state Rep. Jim Christiana of Beaver County, Berwick Borough Councilman Andrew Shecktor and Paul DeLong of Williamsport have also decided to seek the nomination — to maintain a hectic schedule between now and the May 2018 primary.
“I view my job as a candidate to be an honest evaluator on how I see the world
and, most important, meet Pennsylvanians [and learn] what are they concerned about,” said Bartos, who intends to make it a point to be home most Friday nights and Saturdays to celebrate Shabbat with his family. “The No. 1 issue can depend on where you are and whether you’re talking to a business owner, student or retired person.”
The former lawyer’s professional experience — running the Mark Group and now ESB — has exposed him to the highs and lows of the business world.
“As a U.S. senator, I’d be uniquely qualified to understand both the opportunities and the dangers of international expansion,” Bartos said, “and the grave danger posed when the government involves itself too much in a market.
“When government picks winners and losers for favored businesses, lots of people can get hurt. I … won’t let that happen again.”
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