Rep. Lou Barletta plans to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2018, according to two Republican sources.
Barletta, an early supporter of President Donald Trump and the former mayor of Hazelton, is an immigration hard-liner serving his fourth term in the House. Trump has publicly suggested that Barletta challenge either Casey or Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Barletta won his House seat during the 2010 GOP wave, in his third run for Congress. With this move, he becomes the biggest name in a large Republican field that has formed to challenge Casey. State Reps. Rick Saccone and Jim Christiana are also running in the Republican primary, as is businessman Jeff Bartos. Rep. Pat Meehan has already passed on a run for Senate.
Casey, the son of a popular former governor of the same name, is in his second term in the Senate after walloping then-Sen. Rick Santorum in the 2006 Democratic wave and defending his seat in 2012. Despite his reputation as a moderate, Casey has emerged as a fierce critic of Trump, who carried Pennsylvania by less than 1 point in the 2016 election.
Pennsylvania is one of 10 states carried by Trump last year that Senate Democrats must defend in the 2018 election.