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Pennsylvania Republicans have selected a woman who turned an old house into a “shrine” to former President Donald Trump and believes the 2020 election was stolen as the GOP nominee for an open state legislative seat.
Leslie Baum Rossi was selected Saturday by GOP county officials as their nominee in a May 18 special election for the state House seat from the 59th District, located outside Pittsburgh. In 2016, Rossi painted a house red, white and blue and placed a 12-foot cutout of Trump in front of it. The "Trump House," as it was known, served as a gathering point for supporters, with voter registration and merchandise distribution. Rossi was a delegate for Trump in 2020 and attended his speech at the Republican National Convention in August of last year.
Rossi is running to fill the seat of former state Rep. Mike Reese, who died from an apparent brain aneurysm on Jan. 2 after winning his seventh term unopposed. When she launched her campaign last month, Rossi told the Tribune-Review that she believed Trump had actually won Pennsylvania.
“I feel, and will always feel, that he won and by a lot in our state. When we went to bed, he was winning by such a wide margin that I didn’t have a slightest concern, and then I woke up in the morning like everyone else to see that had flipped in every swing state after they stopped counting,” she said.
The Facebook page for the Trump House is also laden with posts disputing the election results. A Nov. 25, 2020, post read, “How about these numbers in PA? Do the dems really think Americans don’t know what they did & that Biden who was such a weak / corrupt candidate has won?”
Rossi was selected for the position over four other candidates, including Reese’s widow. Westmoreland County chairman Bill Bretz said the Trump House “certainly helped” Rossi’s case for the nomination but added that she is a “businesswoman and entrepreneur in her own right.”
A favorite to win in the district, Rossi would join a state Republican Party that spent two months working with Trump’s legal team attempting to overturn the election results. On Dec. 4, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff was one of more than 60 Republican legislators in the state to call on the U.S. Congress to reject the results showing Biden victorious in the state.
GOP officials have stuck with Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and his second impeachment trial. They were highly critical of Sen. Pat Toomey, a retiring Republican who was one of seven GOP senators to vote to convict the former president for his role in inciting the riot. A clip of the Republican chairman of Washington County — located near the area Rossi would represent — criticizing Toomey went viral last week.
“We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” Dave Ball told KDKA-TV last week. “We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us, and we feel very strongly that he did not represent us.”
Bretz and the rest of the Westmoreland County GOP executive committee unanimously voted to censure Toomey for his vote, with Bretz saying it went “against the nature of what we believe” as a party.
“I think we’re simply sending the message that just because he’s not running for office again doesn’t mean that he’s not still accountable to us for his votes,” Bretz added.
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