Nigel Farage will be at a campaign stop in the small town of Harveys Lake.
July 03, 2018
By Chris Brennan
In Harveys Lake, a tiny borough wrapped around its namesake in northern Luzerne County, a transatlantic tiff has erupted around a U.S. Senate seat, claims of anti-Semitism, and – oddly enough – Britain’s “Brexit” from the European Union.
Nigel Farage, the controversial former leader of the nationalist U.K. Independence Party, will be the headline guest at a July 20 campaign fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta in the borough of 2,800 residents 107 miles north of Philadelphia.
And that has generated plenty of heat in the state’s Senate race, in which Barletta, a Republican from Hazleton, is trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
“Casey’s mudslinging and name-calling are unseemly and offensive,” Farage said in an email Monday to the Inquirer and Daily News.
He was referring to Casey’s campaign, through the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, having branded Farage an “anti-Semite,” citing comments Farage made on his London-based radio show in November about the power of what he called “the Jewish lobby” in America.
The fund-raiser is being hosted by Gerry Gunster, a political consultant from Maryland who worked on the Brexit campaign. Farage was the public face of that political movement. Gunster’s firm also lobbied for the American Beverage Association in Philadelphia last year as the industry was seeking to undo the city’s sweetened beverage tax, according to city records.
Barletta’s campaign declined to discuss specifics about the fund-raiser. Farage said he knows several of the hosts in what he described as an event “for local voters. ”
“Mr. Casey should be ashamed for disrespecting these Pennsylvania voters by trying to stop them from supporting their candidate,” Farage said in an email. “Whether Mr. Casey likes it or not there is a huge political shift occurring across the Western world and Lou Barletta’s views chime with that. I’m used to being abused, it is happening because we are winning. ”
Casey’s campaign seized on that remark, calling it “deeply troubling” that “Barletta shares [Farage’s] world view. ” Farage had raised concerns about rising migration, particularly of Muslims, into Britain and blamed the EU’s liberalized immigration laws in the run-up to the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016.
Barletta’s campaign released a letter from 17 people identifying themselves as “leaders of the Jewish community in Pennsylvania” condemning Casey for “outrageous and inaccurate personal attacks. ”
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who has been credited with bringing together Farage and President Trump during the 2016 campaign, also will appear at the fund-raiser, Farage said.
Gunster tweeted a photo of himself with Trump, Farage, and two other men after meeting with the president-elect in Trump Tower four days after the 2016 election.
Trump followed up later that month with a tweet proposing Farage as Britain’s ambassador to the United States. Kim Darroch has served as ambassador since January 2016.
Barletta was cochairman of Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania.
Trump, in a tweet after Barletta won the May 15 Republican primary election, said he would be “a great senator. ” He also knocked Casey as a “do-nothing senator. ”
As the political winds whip up, Harveys Lake prepares for things to get choppy. Carole Samson, the borough’s mayor, described it as a “small place” where such events are uncommon.
“We have a couple of restaurants and a couple of bars. That’s about it,” she said. “We don’t have any traffic lights. ”
Harveys Lake wraps around the nine-mile shore of its namesake, a body of water that resembles the boot shape of Italy and is the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania. The town’s population is 96 percent white, with no black or Latino residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Borough officials were uncertain if Barletta’s event will draw protesters. Police Chief Charles Musial said he will be coordinating with the Pennsylvania State Police and federal law enforcement agencies.
Samson said Harveys Lake may need help, since its police department lacks a jail.
“If it goes bad, we can’t handle it,” Samson said. “We don’t even have a cell. You get hooked by a chain to a bench. We just don’t have that kind of crime.”