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|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Pennsylvania's 11th district
January 3, 2011 - January 3, 2019
|Dan Meuser (Redistricting)|
|Mayor of Hazleton|
January 3, 2000 - December 14, 2010
Louis James Barletta
January 28, 1956
Hazleton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Education||Luzerne County Community College|
Louis James Barletta (born January 28, 1956) is an American politician and businessman who served as the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district from 2011 to 2019. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as Mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania from 1999 to 2010. As Mayor, he came to prominence due to a high-profile anti-immigration ordinance that spurred legal challenges and was later found unconstitutional. The legal fees related to defending the ordinance contributed to making the city financially distressed, and it no longer enforces the ordinance.
Barletta was born January 28, 1956, in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the son of Angeline (née Agosti) and Rocco Barletta, both of Italian ancestry. After graduating from high school, he attended Luzerne County Community College and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. After an unsuccessful tryout for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, Barletta went to work for his family's construction and heating oil business.
In 1984, Barletta founded a pavement marking company, Interstate Road Marking Corporation, which he sold in 2000. At the time of the sale, his firm had grown to become the largest of its kind in Pennsylvania.
He was defeated for a seat on the Hazleton City Council in 1996, but won two years later. In 1999, he defeated Jack Mundie for mayor, taking 66% of the vote and overcoming a Democratic registration edge in the city. He took office on January 3, 2000.
Barletta was reelected as mayor in 2003 and 2007. In 2007, Barletta was nominated in both the Republican and Democratic primary elections. Barletta defeated the Democratic candidate, former Mayor Michael Marsicano, on the Democratic ballot as a write-in.
In 2006, Barletta made headlines for his efforts opposing illegal immigration in Hazleton vowing to make the city "one of the toughest places in the United States" for illegal immigrants. Barletta introduced and the city council approved the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. The ordinance allowed the city to deny a business permit to employers who hired illegal immigrants and gave the city authority to fine landlords up to $1,000 for leasing to illegal immigrants. The act also made English the official language of Hazleton, prohibiting city employees from translating documents into any language without official authorization. In response, the ACLU and Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund sued in Federal District Court to block the ordinance.
In July 2007, District Court Judge James M. Munley ruled that the act was unconstitutional for interfering with Federal immigration laws and violating the due process of individuals, employers and landlords. The ruling was upheld on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals on September 9, 2010. In a public statement shortly after the decision, Barletta vowed to appeal. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. In 2014, the town of Hazleton was ordered to reimburse the ACLU $1.4 million in legal fees (which was more than one tenth of the annual revenue of the town for 2017), and the town, which was already in debt to the tune of $6 million, had to take additional loans to pay the fees. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development declared that the town of Hazleton was financially distressed.
In 2002, Barletta ran as the Republican candidate in the 11th District against nine-term Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski. The 11th had long been considered the most Democratic district in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. However, Barletta was viewed as a very strong candidate--the first credible Republican challenger Kanjorski had faced since his 1986 reelection bid--since he was a very popular Republican mayor from a heavily Democratic city. Barletta lost, taking 42.4% of the vote. The race might have been much closer had the state legislature not decided to move heavily Democratic Scranton, previously the heart of the 10th District, to the 11th. Barletta lost the district's share of Lackawanna County, home to Scranton, by 32 points; he only trailed in the old 11th by 9,000 votes.
Barletta faced Kanjorski again in 2008. Lou Barletta denounced the endorsement of David Duke in this race. Multiple polls had shown Barletta leading Kanjorski by as many as 5 percentage points, and the race has been pegged as one of the nation's most competitive leading into the November elections. That race was one of very few nationwide where a Republican challenger had a credible chance at unseating a Democratic incumbent. Barletta lost to Kanjorski 48%-52%, largely due to losing Lackawanna County by 12,800 votes. Barletta won the territory that had been in the district prior to the 2000s round of redistricting by almost 4,000 votes.
Barletta announced on December 9, 2009, that he would once again run for Congress in 2010. He won his party's nomination on Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Barletta won the General Election on November 2, 2010 against Kanjorski by a 55%-45% margin. City Council President Joe Yannuzzi succeeded Barletta as Mayor of Hazleton on December 15, 2010.
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Before the 2012 election, it was widely expected that the state legislature would gerrymander Barletta's district to make it safer for him. In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district with 57% of the vote. The new map, as expected, significantly altered the 11th. Heavily Democratic Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were shifted to the 17th District. To make up for the loss of population, the 11th absorbed some heavily Republican territory to the north and south that had previously been in the neighbouring 5th, 10th, 17th and 19th districts, pushing it as far south as the suburbs of Harrisburg. The new district is approximately ten points more Republican than its predecessor. Had it existed in 2008, President Obama would have only won 47 percent of the vote here to John McCain's 51 percent. It appeared that the legislature wanted to protect Barletta by packing as many of northeast Pennsylvania's Democratic voters into the 17th as possible.
Barletta won reelection with 58 percent of the vote.
On July 31, 2017, the Associated Press reported that Barletta was preparing to run for the U.S. Senate, seeking the GOP nomination to challenge incumbent Bob Casey for his seat in the 2018 midterm elections. He officially announced on August 29. He later secured the Republican nomination, but ultimately lost to Casey, the incumbent Democrat in the general election on November 6, 2018.
According to Vox, Barletta is "considered to be generally more moderate than other House Republicans, though he almost always toes the party line on major votes."
Barletta voted for Micah's law, which prohibits abortion of fetuses starting with the twentieth week of pregnancy, when anti-abortion advocates contend that fetuses can be born prematurely with medical assistance and feel pain, with exceptions for victims of rape and incest who have undergone counseling and for cases of danger to the life of the mother.
Barletta had been a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. Barletta endorsed Trump for president in March 2016. According to NBC News, "Barletta is a favorite of Trump. ... Trump asked Barletta to run for Senate." Barletta was reportedly considered for a position in the Trump administration. In his 2018 Senate campaign, Barletta pledged to "give President Trump the help he needs".
On April 15, 2011, Barletta voted with the Republican majority for Paul Ryan's budget. Barletta has characterized a balanced budget amendment as a gimmick and said he will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.
In 2017, Barletta voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Republican Party's tax reform legislation. In supporting the legislation, Barletta tweeted, "Our #TaxReform package doubles standard deduction, brings $$$ back home, and reduces rates for ALL taxpayers. We will #MAGA." According to PolitiFact, Barletta's claim is "mostly false", as the tax plan in 2018 cuts taxes for approximately 75% of Americans, while increasing them on 7%; by 2027, the tax plan will raise taxes for more than 25% of Americans.
Barletta opposed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and voted to repeal it. Barletta had threatened not to support Obamacare repeal because he wanted the repeal legislation to prohibit undocumented immigrants from applying for health insurance tax credits. After meeting with President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, Barletta said that they had promised to bring up separate legislation to prohibit undocumented immigrants from accessing health insurance tax credits. In 2018, Barletta said that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would not have weakened protections for individuals with preexisting conditions; experts said that the repeal would have given states the option to seek waivers whereby insurers would be allowed to raise prices for individuals with preexisting conditions who did not have continuous coverage.
In 2014, Barletta introduced a bill to repeal a provision in the Affordable Care Act which required that volunteer emergency responders be offered health care by the organization they volunteer with. Barletta argued that the bill was necessary because it would be prohibitively expensive for some of organizations to provide insurance.
Barletta supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order imposing a ban on entry to the U.S. to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, saying: "I commend President Trump for suspending the refugee program, and in particular for Syria and the six other countries, because they are unquestionably terrorist havens and hotspots." In 2007, Barletta opposed comprehensive immigration reform.
In January 2018, CNN reported that Barletta had been associated with a number of fringe anti-immigration groups and organizations. In 2006, he gave an interview to American Free Press, an outlet that said that 9/11 was a "Jewish plot" and denies the Holocaust. In 2007, Barletta appeared with American Free Press' "roving editor" Mark Anderson, a Bilderberg conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier, at a Hazleton rally in support of Anderson. At the rally, Barletta said that the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 that the Bush administration was pursuing, would reward some immigrants who are "murders, rapists, thieves, and terrorists" with legal status. In 2007, Barletta gave an interview to Americans for Immigration Control, which believes the "annual tidal wave of over a million immigrants (legal and illegal) is endangering our American way of life." In 2011, Barletta spoke at an event hosted by the anti-Muslim journal The Social Contract, whose editor is a white nationalist. In 2011, he appeared at an event hosted by the ultra-conservative student group Youth for Western Civilization, which opposes "radical multiculturalism, political correctness, racial preferences, mass immigration, and socialism."
When asked whether Barletta had known of the views of the people and groups mentioned in the CNN story at the time he associated with them, Barletta spokesperson Jon Anzur responded that Barletta had "always condemned 'hate, bigotry, and racial supremacy in all its forms.'" Anzur added, "'Of course Lou was not aware of these individuals' background[s]....As the mayor of a small city, Lou didn't have the resources or staff to screen everyone who asked him questions... Lou did 27 interviews [one day], from World News Tonight to Tucker Carlson. Lou had one assistant, not a team of consultants...'" Anzur also noted that Barletta had condemned a New Jersey Ku Klux Klan organization that wanted to demonstrate in Hazleton in 2007, and that Barletta had renounced a 2008 endorsement he had received from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in 2008.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania