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Kathy Barnette’s Much-Hyped GOP Senate Campaign Was A Flop

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LANCASTER, Pa. — They danced the Macarena at an election night party, but Kathy Barnette and her supporters ultimately didn’t have much to rejoice.

The hard-right Fox News commentator enjoyed a surge within the polls and a flurry of media attention toward the tip of her campaign that didn’t translate to greater than a projected third-place finish and a fun party at a flowery barn.

Still, Barnette appeared to have a blast. She danced the night away at an upscale event space, the Star Barn at Stone Gables Estate in Elizabethtown, thanked her supporters, didn’t exactly concede, then packed it up and went home.

“Ya’ll saw the long knives come out at me, and also you saw me leaning into it,” Barnette said on the event.

The race for first place continues to be too near call, but Barnette appeared to finish with 25% of the vote, a good final result for a newcomer who had never previously run statewide. Had Barnette won, she would have been well-positioned to turn out to be the Senate’s first Black female Republican.

For a moment within the run-up to Election Day, Barnette appeared to have a gap against TV doctor Mehmet Oz and hedge fund executive Dave McCormick, who relentlessly attacked one another in TV ads. Barnette benefited from being endorsed by and running alongside Doug Mastriano, the far-right 2020 election denier who won the GOP nomination Tuesday, in addition to from her unbelievable life story she shared — growing up on a pig farm in southern Alabama without running water, born when her mother was 12.

And considering that Barnette was crushed in paid media — Oz, McCormick and their allies spent roughly 25 times what she and the conservative Club for Growth did — the final result wasn’t all that bad. Barnette’s only earlier political experience was a failed 2020 U.S. House race, which she also didn’t concede.

Barnette managed her rise with just three campaign staffers, including a campaign manager who had one other full-time job.

“We went from not one phone call the whole campaign to 100 phone calls in an hour,” Bob Gillies, the campaign manager and a GOP state House candidate in 2014, told HuffPost.

Barnette would have fit like a glove on the GOP ticket with Mastriano, a Christian nationalist who was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, and led the charge in Pennsylvania to overturn the 2020 election. NBC News reported Monday that Barnette marched in Washington that day alongside members of the Proud Boys who were later charged with breaching the U.S. Capitol and attacking officers.

Interviews with Barnette supporters on the campaign trail revealed why her candidacy was so attractive to some primary voters. People found her to be authentic, her life story resonated with them and, possibly most significantly, they wanted a substitute for McCormick and Oz. (Tellingly, Barnette beat Oz in Montgomery County, where they each reside.)

“She has the convictions, and she or he hasn’t modified,” Daniel Fahrin, a 23-year-old who showed as much as a small Barnette event in Scranton on Monday, told HuffPost. “We’re having issues where obviously some people flipped they usually’re not from Pennsylvania.”

“I don’t think Dr. Oz is a serious person or a serious candidate,” Andy Roke, a 34-year-old corporate business manager, told HuffPost. “I’m very anti-establishment. Whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, I don’t think they’ve our greatest interests at heart. She’s just an outsider.”

Cheryl Kundla, 61, was undecided at the beginning of Barnette’s event Monday, undecided what to make of the last-minute opposition research against her, including that she was calling former President Barack Obama a Muslim as recently as 2016. Barnette still won her over.

“If she wins by one vote tomorrow, it’ll be me,” she told HuffPost.

Barnette appeared to leave the door open to a different night of line dancing in her political future.

“Our county is wounded. Our country is split, and I feel our country is split intentionally. So we’ve got to do our part,” she said. “We now have the most effective story to inform. What the left is telling you, that’s not our story. We’ve got to be daring.”

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