Republican ‘Chaos’ in Pennsylvania Threatens to Upend the Midterms

Republican ‘Chaos’ in Pennsylvania Threatens to Upend the Midterms

To a degree surpassing any other contest in the 2022 midterms so far, Donald Trump has poured his personal prestige into Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary race, which is going through a final spasm of uncertainty as Kathy Barnette, an insurgent candidate with a sparse résumé, gives a last-minute scare to Trump’s pick, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

The outcome of that election, as well as the G.O.P. contest for governor, is threatening to implode the state’s Republican Party — with a blast radius that might be felt in states as far away as Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina over the coming weeks and months.

The turbulence also has major implications for Trump’s hold on the party, which is growing more alarmed that the former president’s involvement in primaries could scupper Republicans’ chances of reclaiming the Senate despite

When Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed legislation that critics called the “bathroom bill” in 2016, it set off a firestorm.

The law, which required transgender people to use public restrooms that matched their birth gender, drew protests from major businesses and athletic powerhouses including the N.B.A. and the N.C.A.A., which withdrew their All-Star Game and March Madness basketball tournament games from the state.

A few months later, McCrory lost re-election.

Fast-forward six years, and Republicans are pushing anti-transgender legislation across the country and punishing companies that dare to object. But McCrory, running for Senate in North Carolina, is floundering in his attempted return to electoral politics, trailing heavily in polls to a rival backed by Donald Trump.

McCrory also isn’t talking on the campaign trail about the hot-button issue of L.G.B.T.Q. rights that brought him to national prominence back in 2016.

“It’s not an issue that drives me, never was,” McCrory said in a telephone interview on Monday. “But it’s an issue, if asked, I’ll state where I am.”

McCrory’s bid to replace Senator Richard Burr, who is retiring, has been complicated by the strength of Representative Ted Budd, who has support from both Trump and the conservative Club for Growth and seems to be leading the race.

McCrory supports the recently enacted Florida law that restricts discussion of sexual orientation in schools. He said that he had been told before that he was the Ron DeSantis before Ron DeSantis.

But as he seeks the Senate nomination in Tuesday’s primary, he’s more interested in talking about inflation. He describes himself as a Ronald Reagan Republican who’s interested in national defense, fighting crime, cutting taxes and balancing budgets.

He also described himself as the Jason Bourne of the Republican Party. “I’ve got these outside special interest groups trying to give me a false identity,” he said, taking particular issue with the Club for Growth’s attacks. “Who in the hell are they to determine what type of conservative I am?”

Carter Wrenn, a longtime Republican strategist in North Carolina, said the Club for Growth’s spending might be the biggest factor in the Senate race, and he agreed with McCrory that the top issue for voters was inflation.

Wrenn said he didn’t think transgender rights were a major issue in the primary because the top candidates most likely agree with McCrory’s actions in 2016.

“Obviously none of his opponents are attacking him for it in the primary,” Wrenn said, “because if you attack Pat for what he did in the past, it would probably help him.”

— Blake & Leah

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