New Reporting Details Escalating Infighting In Pennsylvania’s “Nasty” GOP Senate Primary

New reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer highlights how an “ugly early clash” in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary over Parnell’s history of domestic violence is dividing the party and worrying Republicans that the “nasty turn” in this critical battleground could hurt their chances.

This is the latest in a series of reports detailing the escalating public attacks and infighting facing Republicans in Pennsylvania:

  • National Journal previously detailed how less than a year out from the primary, Jeff Bartos and Sean Parnell have “gone nuclear on one another” worrying Republicans. One GOP consultant even admitted that “there’s significant concern about the crop of candidates.”
  • Axios reported that Republican super PACs’ intraparty attacks “threaten to elevate damaging stories” about GOP candidates, noting a super PAC supporting Jeff Bartos has spent $166,000 going after Parnell for his past domestic violence allegations.

Read more about Pennsylvania’s ugly Republican primary:

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Bombshell or backlash? The nasty turn in Pa.’s GOP Senate primary leaves questions for both Jeff Bartos and Sean Parnell
October 1, 2021
Jonathan Tamari

  • Allies of Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bartos have pressed ahead with his charged attack on GOP rival Sean Parnell, pointing to protective orders sought by Parnell’s wife — but party insiders are divided over who is suffering the worse political fallout.
  • Republicans are split over whether the ugly early clash has slowed Parnell’s momentum, or backfired on Bartos.
  • Some say the orders and Parnell’s comments should give the GOP pause over the early front-runner in a Senate race with national implications.
  • The Inquirer interviewed nine Pennsylvania GOP insiders about the issue. Few were willing to talk publicly about the fight, but some argued it has raised enough concern to at least slow Parnell’s hopes of consolidating support after securing Trump’s backing.
  • Bartos launched the attack days after the endorsement. Several Republicans worried about how the revelations of the protective orders will be seen by suburban women, a critical voting bloc.
  • For months, some have worried that none of their candidates are up to the task, and the early brawling has worsened those fears.
  • Bartos has said even the temporary orders make Parnell “unelectable” in a competitive race. The campaign manager for another Republican candidate, Carla Sands, echoed that criticism this week.
  • “Reports of Sean Parnell’s behavior are offensive, outrageous, and disqualifying. Parnell cannot be trusted to win the general election or represent millions of Pennsylvania women,” said Joe Desilets.
  • A Parnell spokesperson said that they “expect this type of dishonesty from Democrats” but that it’s “disgraceful” coming from “purported Republicans.”

National Journal: Could an ugly Senate primary hamper Pennsylvania Republicans?

  • Less than a year out from the primaries, the top contenders for the nomination to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey have already gone nuclear on one another—and candidates are just beginning to introduce themselves to voters.
  • “There’s significant concern about the crop of candidates that’s currently in the field,” said Mark Harris, a Pittsburgh-based GOP consultant who managed Toomey’s 2010 campaign.
  • The confrontation serves as the opening salvo of what had been a sleepy primary.
  • Pennsylvania’s primary might be the most personal fight across the Senate map for Republicans, but it’s not the only race for an open seat in which things could get messy.
  • So far, it doesn’t appear that either Bartos or Parnell, if nominated, would model the approach that won Toomey two terms in the Senate.

Axios: GOP attacks its own

  • Republican super PACs are beating up on the party’s own candidates in key Senate primaries.
  • The negative ads some Republican groups are directing at GOP candidates threaten to elevate damaging stories about them ahead of competitive fights that could determine control of the 50-50 Senate.
  • Jobs for Our Future PAC, which supports Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bartos, has spent $166,000 going after Republican rival Sean Parnell.

Pittsburgh City Paper: Sean Parnell previously downplayed accusations against Roy Moore, latest in string of controversial statements

  • Parnell repeatedly downplayed those accusations and defended the Republican National Committee and then-President Donald Trump for supporting Moore, even after the allegations, and corroborating reporting, were made against Moore.
  • These clips come to light as Parnell has been hit with attacks ads from a Super PAC supporting Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bartos that highlight sexist comments Parnell made on television in 2019, as well as a lawsuit filed in 2020 by Parnell’s ex-wife, alleging that groups Parnell has close ties to — Fairway Independent Mortgage Company and American Warrior Initiative — discriminated against her by firing her because she was no longer married to Parnell, citing Parnell’s sexist comments as evidence.
  • Zack Roday of Jobs for Our Future PAC, the Super PAC supporting Bartos, says that Parnell’s comments about Moore show that Parnell is a flawed candidate for U.S. Senate.
  • Bartos (R-Montgomery) has personally attacked Parnell over temporary protection from abuse orders that Parnell’s ex-wife filed against him in 2017 and 2018.
  • “Sean’s actions and attitude toward women are disturbing, well-documented, and disqualifying,” Bartos told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sept. 7, which came shortly after Parnell received an endorsement from Trump.


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