SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. — Kathy Barnette’s opposition to abortion couldn’t be more personal.
Her mother was raped and gave birth to her at age 12. “It wasn’t a selection. It was a life. My life,” an emotional campaign video starts.
Ms. Barnette — a hard-right conservative locked in a seven-way Republican primary for an open Pennsylvania Senate seat — is suddenly surging within the polls, statistically tied for first place with two ultrarich men. And considered one of them has the lone thing more invaluable than money or name recognition in a G.O.P. primary: a Trump endorsement.
Because the election approaches on Tuesday, Ms. Barnette, 50, a Black mother of two who has never held office and whose life story has moved many white anti-abortion conservatives, poses a late threat to the 2 presumptive favorites, David McCormick, a retired hedge fund manager, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, a television celebrity endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Barnette, who has publicly espoused homophobic and anti-Muslim views, has been propelled mainly by her strong debate performances and her rags-to-riches story. Not even the news on Thursday that Mr. Trump had questioned elements of her past and declared that only Dr. Oz could defeat Democrats in November appeared to hassle her.
Hours after Mr. Trump’s statement, Ms. Barnette spoke at a Republican Party dinner.
“They’re coming out with long knives at this point,” she told the audience in Southampton, a couple of half-hour drive north of Philadelphia. “Right? And I had the perfect day of my life today.”
Later, talking to reporters who were mainly barred from the event, she said she interpreted Mr. Trump’s comments as “favorable.” The previous president had said that she would “never give you the option to win” the final election in November, but that she had a “wonderful future” within the Republican Party.
“We all know that President Trump doesn’t mince words,” she said. “I feel that letter was favorable. And I look ahead to working with the president.”
In campaign videos and in front of voters, she explains that she spent at the very least a part of her childhood living on a pig farm in southern Alabama, within the “one stop sign” town of Nichburg, in a house without insulation, running water or an indoor toilet.
“But this country allowed me to give you the option to create a distinct narrative for myself,” she told Republicans at a campaign forum on Wednesday held by a bunch that’s dissatisfied with Pennsylvania’s mainstream G.O.P. and hopes to elect a slate of more conservative candidates to the state committee.
“But that country is about to return to a detailed,” she warned in a singsong stump speech that blended the arrogance of the pulpit and the intimacy of the confessional. “So we want good people now to arise and start to fight for the best nation that has ever existed.”
From Opinion: A Challenge to Roe v. Wade
Commentary by Times Opinion writers and columnists on the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Her vision of what that may seem like is unambiguous.
She opposes gun control and abortion rights and proposes limiting the federal government’s involvement within the health care industry. She has ridiculed the Muslim faith in online posts and promotes Mr. Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen. In a 2010 essay, published online by the Canada Free Press, she argued that the gay rights movement — which she called “immoral and perverse” — sought “domination” and needs to be thwarted, citing the Bible as justification.
“Make no mistake about it, homosexuality is a targeted group within the Bible, right together with cheats, drunkards, liars, foul-mouths, extortionists, robbers, and some other habitual sin,” she wrote.
In an interview, she said she had no plan to maneuver toward the middle if she wins next week.
And to the road of people that hovered nearby at campaign events on Wednesday and Thursday hoping to snap a selfie with Ms. Barnette, her outspokenness and her life story were primary selling points.
“She’s authentic,” said Dr. Anthony Mannarino, a watch surgeon who said his parents moved to the USA from Italy when he was 2, and neither of them had any formal education beyond the fifth grade.
“It doesn’t seem like she drove up from out of town to take a Senate seat,” Dr. Mannarino added, taking a swipe at Dr. Oz and Mr. McCormick, each of whom moved back to Pennsylvania relatively recently from out of state. Ms. Barnette refers to them as carpetbaggers.
“I would like a daily person,” Dr. Mannarino said. “I would like someone who knows how much a hamburger costs and fills their very own gas tank.”
Ms. Barnette, the creator of “Nothing to Lose, Every part to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America,” left Alabama after graduating from college, and has been living in Pennsylvania for eight years, in keeping with her campaign manager.
She and her husband, Carl, own a four-bedroom home in Huntingdon Valley, a Philadelphia suburb, in keeping with property records. For six years, she said, she home-schooled her son and daughter while appearing as a conservative commentator on “Fox & Friends.”
“She’s a recent face in government,” said Conrad J. Kraus, an actual estate broker and builder who lives across the corner from Ms. Barnette and handed out fliers promoting a neighborhood open house for the candidate on Sunday. A Trump flag hangs on his tree. A doormat reading “Don’t Blame This Family. We Voted for Trump,” welcomes visitors.
“A fresh face,” he said on Thursday, predicting a win. “I like that.”
The Barnettes have also owned property in Texas, property records show, and her book biography on Amazon indicates that she has lived in Virginia.
The State of Roe v. Wade
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What’s Roe v. Wade? Roe v. Wade is a landmark Supreme court decision that legalized abortion across the USA. The 7-2 ruling was announced on Jan. 22, 1973. Justice Harry A. Blackmun, a modest Midwestern Republican and a defender of the best to abortion, wrote the bulk opinion.
What was the case about? The ruling struck down laws in lots of states that had barred abortion, declaring that they might not ban the procedure before the purpose at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. That time, often called fetal viability, was around 28 weeks when Roe was decided. Today, most experts estimate it to be about 23 or 24 weeks.
What else did the case do? Roe v. Wade created a framework to manipulate abortion regulation based on the trimesters of pregnancy. In the primary trimester, it allowed almost no regulations. Within the second, it allowed regulations to guard women’s health. Within the third, it allowed states to ban abortions as long as exceptions were made to guard the life and health of the mother. In 1992, the court tossed that framework, while affirming Roe’s essential holding.
Within the Nineteen Nineties, she spent seven years within the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, attaining the rank of specialist, said Madison Bonzo, a U.S. Army spokeswoman. She earned a level in finance from Troy State University in Alabama in 1997, in keeping with the college, making her the primary person in her family to graduate from college. She went on to get an M.B.A. from Fontbonne University in Missouri.
She has been a registered Republican since at the very least 2015, and in a recent video she said she never voted for Barack Obama, rebutting claims that she had once supported him, after a Change.org petition surfaced that indicated she hoped to erect a statue in his honor.
Her first time running for office, in 2020, was a flop. She lost a House race by 19 percentage points to the Democratic incumbent, Representative Madeleine Dean. She never conceded the race, said Timothy D. Mack, Ms. Dean’s spokesman. Yet she began her Senate campaign almost immediately afterward.
She has mastered Mr. Trump’s knack for sticking to a straightforward campaign message, distilling the financial effect of the complicated economic forces causing an increase in inflation to a one-syllable word: squeeze.
“People feel squeezed immediately,” she said this week. “How lots of you are feeling that something has gone unsuitable?”
She is competing in a primary for a seat held by a Republican senator, Pat Toomey, who announced he would retire after voting to question Mr. Trump. (Senator Toomey told Axios that there was rather a lot “voters don’t know” about Ms. Barnette.)
After a Washington Examiner article published on Wednesday raised questions on her upbringing, her military experience and her academic degrees, she used it as fodder at a campaign stop later that day.
“How long did I say I’ve been running for Senate? Thirteen months. And today the media just discovered about me,” Ms. Barnette said, eliciting laughter.
But in rooms filled almost entirely with white voters, it was Ms. Barnette’s staunch opposition to abortion that appeared to matter most.
Christine Heitman, a 50-year-old software engineer, said she respected the difficult selection Ms. Barnette’s mother made to hold her pregnancy to term, noting that even opponents of abortion often make room for exceptions within the case of rape or incest. Ms. Barnette’s success, Ms. Heitman said, is proof of the sanctity of life.
“It seems like she had a worthwhile life, although she was dirt poor,” Ms. Heitman said.
Kitty Bennett contributed research.