SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – Kathy Barnette’s opposition to abortion couldn’t be more personal.

Her mother was raped and gave birth to her at the age of 12. “It wasn’t a choice. It was a life. My life”, an emotional one campaign video begins.

Ms. Barnette — a far-right conservative locked in a seven-time Republican primary for an open Pennsylvania Senate seat — is suddenly rising in the polls, statistically tied for first place with two ultra-rich men. And one of them has the only thing more valuable than money or name recognition in a primary GOP: a Trump endorsement.

As the election draws near on Tuesday, Ms. Barnette, 50, a black mother of two who never held office and whose life story has moved many white conservatives against abortion, a belated threat to the two suspected favorites, David McCormick, a retired hedge fund manager and Dr. Mehmet Oz, a television celebrity backed by former President Donald J. Trump.

Mrs. Barnette, who is publicly homophobic and anti-muslim views, has been propelled above all by her strong debate performances and her story from rags to riches. Even Thursday’s news that Mr. Trump had questioned elements of her past and stated that only Dr. Oz could beat the Democrats in November didn’t seem to bother her.

Hours after Mr. Trump’s statement, Ms. Barnette spoke at a Republican party dinner.

“They’re coming out with long knives right now,” she told the audience in Southampton, about a half-hour drive north of Philadelphia. “Right? And I had the best day of my life today.”

Later, speaking to reporters mostly banned from the event, she said she interpreted Mr Trump’s comments as “favorable.” The former president had said she “could never win” the November general election, but that she had a “bright future” in the Republican Party.

“We know President Trump is not mincing his words,” she said. “I think that letter was favorable. And I look forward to working with the president.”

In campaign videos and in front of voters, she explains that at least part of her childhood she lived on a pig farm in southern Alabama, in the “one stop sign” town of Nichburg, in a house with no insulation, running water or an indoor toilet.

“But this country allowed me to create a different story for myself,” she told Republicans Wednesday at a campaign forum held by a group dissatisfied with Pennsylvania’s mainstream GOP and hoping for a slate of more conservative ones. elect candidates for the elections. state commission.

“But that country is about to end,” she warned in a lilting stump speech that mixed the confidence of the pulpit and the intimacy of the confessional. “So we now need good people to stand up and start fighting for the greatest nation that ever existed.”

Her vision of what that might look like is unequivocal.

She opposes gun control and abortion rights and proposes limiting the federal government’s involvement in health care. She has ridiculed the Muslim faith in online messages and promotes Mr Trump’s lie that the 2020 election has been stolen. In a 2010 essay published online by the Canada Free Press, she argued that the gay rights movement — which she called “immoral and perverted” — sought “domination” and should be thwarted, citing the Bible as justification.

“Make no mistake, homosexuality is a target in the Bible, along with impostors, drunks, liars, foul mouths, blackmailers, robbers and every other common sin,” she wrote.

In an interview, she said she has no intention of moving to the center if she wins next week.

And for the line of people who hung around the neighborhood Wednesday and Thursday at campaign events hoping to snap a selfie with Ms. Barnette, her candor and her life story were the main selling points.

“She’s authentic,” said Dr. Anthony Mannarino, an eye surgeon who said his parents moved to the United States from Italy at age 2 and neither of them had formal education after fifth grade.

“It doesn’t look like she came from out of town to take a Senate seat,” added Dr. Mannarino pulls in as he takes a swipe at Dr. Oz and mr. McCormick, both of whom moved back to Pennsylvania relatively recently from out of state. Mrs. Barnette calls them carpet bags.

“I want an ordinary person,” said Dr. mannarino. “I want someone who knows how much a burger costs and fills their own gas tank.”

Ms. Barnette, the author of “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America,” left Alabama after graduating from college and has lived in Pennsylvania for eight years, according to her campaign manager.

According to property records, she and her husband, Carl, own a four-bedroom house in suburban Philadelphia Huntingdon Valley. For six years, she said, she homeschooled her son and daughter while acting as a conservative commentator on “Fox & Friends.”

“She’s a new face in government,” said Conrad J. Kraus, a real estate agent and contractor who lives around the corner from Ms. Barnette, handing out flyers advertising a nearby open house for the candidate on Sunday. A Trump flag hangs from his tree. A doormat that reads ‘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 also owned property in Texas, ownership records show, and her book biography on Amazon indicates she lived in Virginia.

In the 1990s, she spent seven years in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, where she reached the rank of specialist, said Madison Bonzo, a U.S. military spokeswoman. According to the school, she received a degree in finance from Troy State University in Alabama in 1997, making her the first person in her family to graduate from college. She then earned an MBA from Fontbonne University in Missouri.

She has been a registered Republican since at least 2015, and in a new video she said she had never voted for Barack Obama. his honor.

Her first time walking to the office, in 2020, was a flop. She lost a house race by 19 percentage points to Democratic incumbent Representative Madeleine Dean. She never gave in to the race, said Timothy D. Mack, Ms. Dean’s spokesperson. However, she began her campaign in the Senate almost immediately afterward.

She masters Mr Trump’s talent for sticking to a simple campaign message and distilling the financial effect of the complicated economic forces driving inflation into a one-syllable word: squeeze.

“People are feeling squeezed right now,” she said this week. “How many of you feel like something has gone wrong?”

She is running in a primary for a seat taken by Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who announced he would be retiring after voting to impeach Mr Trump. (Senator Toomey told Axios that many “voters don’t know” about Ms. Barnette.)

After an article published Wednesday in Washington Examiner raised questions about her upbringing, military experience and college degrees, she used it as fodder during a campaign shutdown later that day.

“How long have I been saying that I’m running for the Senate? Thirteen months. And today the media just discovered me,” Ms. Barnette said, laughing.

But in rooms almost completely filled with white voters, it was Mrs. Barnette’s staunch opposition to abortion that seemed to matter most.

Christine Heitman, a 50-year-old software engineer, said she respected the difficult choice Ms. Barnette’s mother made to carry her pregnancy to term, noting that even opponents of abortion often make room for exceptions in the case of rape or incest. Mrs. Barnette’s success, said Mrs. Heitman, is proof of the sanctity of life.

“It sounds like she had a valuable life, even though she was poor,” Mrs. Heitman said.

Kitty Bennett contributed to research.

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