Kathy Barnette, Republican Senate Candidate, Vaults Into Contention

NEWTOWN, Pa. — Kathy Barnette, a previously little-known Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania whose underdog campaign has vaulted into surprising contention, made her pitch to a full house on Wednesday night at a candidate forum in Newtown in the eastern part of the state.

Ms. Barnette, a conservative commentator in the Trump style who has a history of incendiary remarks and has amplified the former president’s stolen-election lie, has been climbing in the polls against two big-spending rivals, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.

With Election Day on Tuesday drawing closer, Ms. Barnette was among 15 Republican candidates running for local, state and federal elections who addressed voters at the forum. (Dr. Oz attended, too.)

In front of a standing room-only crowd at the warehouse-size indoor athletic complex, she said that her newfound momentum was more about them than her. “You have made me relevant,” she said. “People feel squeezed right now, and our country is in trouble.”

“I am you,” she added. “I come from some very humble beginnings.”

As she waited to address the crowd at the event, run by Bucks First! America First!, a group hoping to elect a slate of conservative candidates to the Republican State Committee, a steady stream of supporters approached her, hoping for a selfie.

“I love her story,” said Christine Heitman, a 50-year-old software engineer.

Ms. Barnette shared it with the hundreds of voters gathered.

“Pig farm. Alabama, in a home with no insulation, no running water,” she said. “Outhouse in the back and a well on the side. But this country allowed me to be able to create a different narrative for myself. My children have no idea what it feels like to stand in front of an empty refrigerator door and wonder where their next meal is going to come from.”

Her story, and her hard-line conservative politics, appealed to voters here. Eric Fasci said he first met Ms. Barnette about a year before she began her campaign, and he was instantly enthralled. “She’s very addictive,” said Mr. Fasci, 49, who shares Ms. Barnette’s opposition to abortion. “She’s pure. She’s honest. She’s direct.”

Sally Schlotter, 58, walked away with four of Ms. Barnette’s lawn signs.

“I like her stance on pro-life,” Ms. Schlotter said. “I like the fact that she’s no nonsense.”

The candidates spoke in alphabetical order, leaving Dr. Oz second to last. Mr. McCormick was not in attendance.

Dr. Oz began with criticism of President Biden and ended with an attack on Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

“Joe Biden, the only thing he’s built back better is the Republican Party,” Dr. Oz said. “But in order to fight Joe Biden we have to understand why Washington keeps getting it wrong. And I think they get it wrong because they don’t have our values. They don’t know our values here in Bucks County.”

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