Jeff Bartos is a businessman and political figure who ran unsuccessful campaigns for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in 2018 and US Senate in 2022. He built a successful real estate development firm but struggled to translate that into electoral success. This article will explore Bartos’ background, business career, political ambitions, and where he might go from here.
Early Life and Education
Jeff Bartos grew up in Berks County, Pennsylvania. His father ran a small business while his mother was a public school teacher. After high school, Bartos attended Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1988.
After college, Bartos moved to Philadelphia and began working for a real estate development company. He steadily moved up the ranks, learning the ins and outs of commercial and residential real estate.
In 2002, Bartos struck out on his own and founded Bartos Financial Services. The company specialized in financing and developing large scale residential projects. Over the next 15 years, Bartos Financial Services would develop over 6,000 homes across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Some of Bartos’ most notable projects included Liberty at Woodmont in Buckingham Township and the Residences at Scott’s Crossing in Newark, Delaware. Bartos focused on creating planned residential communities with ample amenities. His projects aimed to revitalize suburban neighborhoods.
Entry Into Politics
Although he had never held public office before, Bartos decided to make his first foray into politics by running for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in 2018. He sought the Republican nomination, choosing to run on a ticket with gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner.
Bartos campaigned as a business-minded outsider who could shake up Pennsylvania’s political establishment. He vowed to cut wasteful spending and reform property taxes.
2018 Lt. Governor Race
In the Republican primary, Bartos defeated three other candidates, garnering 46.8% of the vote. His victory set up a general election battle against Democrat John Fetterman.
The race attracted national attention as an important swing state contest in the 2018 midterm elections. Bartos touted his private sector experience and slammed Fetterman as an extreme liberal. However, Fetterman prevailed by nearly 17 points on election day.
Despite the loss, Bartos’ strong connections in the Pennsylvania GOP and name recognition from the Lt. Governor run paved the way for another statewide bid just four years later.
2022 U.S. Senate Race
In 2022, Bartos launched a campaign for US Senate, seeking the open seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey. This time, Bartos faced steeper odds in an expensive, crowded GOP primary field.
His leading opponents included celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormick. Bartos attempted to position himself as the race’s true conservative, but he struggled to gain traction.
In the May 2022 primary, Bartos finished a distant fourth with just 5% of the vote, well behind Oz and McCormick. His Senate ambitions were dashed after just one try.
Throughout his political career, Bartos cultivated a conservative platform, typical of modern Pennsylvania Republicans.
He took a hard line on illegal immigration, supporting building a border wall and ending sanctuary city policies. On economic issues, he advocated for lower corporate taxes and deregulation to spur growth. Bartos also backed increased domestic energy production.
Socially, he opposed abortion rights and sought to repeal Obamacare. Much of his agenda aligned with President Donald Trump’s priorities. However, Bartos lacked the flair or name recognition to stand out among other pro-Trump candidates.
In the 2022 Senate race, one controversy emerged when Bartos accused opponent David McCormick of profiting off Chinese manufacturing. Bartos ran an ad scrutinizing McCormick’s former hedge fund’s investments in China.
McCormick called the ad xenophobic and wrote an open letter demanding Bartos take the ad down. Bartos refused, insisting McCormick’s business dealings were fair game. But the attack didn’t give Bartos much of a poll boost.
Life Outside Politics
When he’s not running for office, Jeff Bartos focuses on philanthropy and spending time with his family. He sits on the board of several charitable organizations that promote education and fight poverty.
Bartos and his wife Sheryl have two adult daughters, Renee and Rachel. He is an avid runner who enjoys competing in local races. The Bartos family belongs to the Congregation Tifereth Israel synagogue in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.
Legacy and Future Plans
Despite his two statewide losses, Jeff Bartos has left his mark on Pennsylvania’s political and economic landscape. His development firm transformed suburban neighborhoods across eastern Pennsylvania over two decades.
As for the future, some speculate Bartos may seek a state legislative office or bide his time until the next US Senate opening in Pennsylvania. While his political stardom faded quickly, at just 56 years old, Bartos still has time for another act.
Perhaps if he gains more experience in elected office, he can avoid the pitfalls that doomed his Lt. Governor and Senate bids. For now, Jeff Bartos will likely return to the private sector and real estate industry where he first made his name.
In summary, Jeff Bartos leveraged business success into two ultimately unsuccessful runs for statewide office in Pennsylvania. He remains a player in Keystone State Republican politics, though faces an uphill climb to get back on the ballot. Still, Bartos’ economic impact, philanthropy, and name recognition in suburban Pennsylvania ensure his influence will linger for years to come.
What is Jeff Bartos best known for?
Bartos is best known for founding a major real estate development firm that built thousands of homes across Pennsylvania over 20 years. He made a name for himself in the industry before running for Lt. Governor and US Senate.
What were Jeff Bartos’ main policy positions?
Bartos ran as a fiscal and social conservative. He supported tax cuts, deregulation, increased domestic energy production, building a border wall, repealing Obamacare, and opposing abortion rights.
Why did Jeff Bartos lose his elections?
In 2018, Bartos lost to a popular Democratic opponent by a sizable margin during a strong midterm year for Democrats. In 2022, he failed to differentiate himself in a crowded, expensive Republican Senate primary and finished fourth.
What is Jeff Bartos doing now?
Since his 2022 defeat, Bartos has returned to working in real estate development and philanthropy. He may seek other elected offices in the future at the state legislative level.
What was Jeff Bartos’ most high profile real estate project?
Bartos considers the Liberty at Woodmont luxury residential development in Buckingham Township to be the crown jewel project of his real estate career. It featured 345 homes starting at $800,000 each.