Braithwaite, a retired Rear Admiral in the Navy who served on active duty and as a reservist, has served as Secretary of the Navy for the Trump administration for the past several months. From 2018 to 2020 he was also Trump’s ambassador to Norway.
Braithwaite served as the top advisor to former Senator Arlen Specter, the longtime face of moderate Pennsylvania Republicans who later became Democrats. He was inducted into the Specter team by David Urban, a classmate from the University of Pennsylvania, who advised Trump’s successful 2016 campaign in Pennsylvania.
“Aside from his stellar military career, professional secretary Braithwaite is a consensus-builder,” said Greg Manz, former Pennsylvania Republican Party spokesman who campaigned for Trump in 2016 and 2020. “He would be an excellent Senate candidate in 2022.” “”
Based on his résumé, some Pennsylvania political insiders consider Braithwaite a different breed of candidate than a full blown Trump loyalist. And his history in various flanks of the GOP could benefit him in Pennsylvania.
“Ken is popular and capable. He survived his association with Donald Trump with an improved reputation,” said Specter’s son Shanin Specter. “I hope he stays in the civil service in some way.”
“He’s a little Trump-y, a little Arlen Specter,” said a person with direct knowledge of Braithwaite’s reasoning. In Pennsylvania: “He’s conservative enough to win a primary, but moderate enough to win a general election.”
Toomey’s resignation has already aroused great interest among candidates from both parties. Lt. Governor John Fetterman opened an exploratory committee and announced this week that it would raise more than $ 1 million in 14 days. Other potential candidates on the Republican side are former GOP MP Ryan Costello, real estate developer Jeff Bartos, ex-gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango and representatives Mike Kelly and Guy Reschenthaler. Potential Democratic candidates include Representatives Conor Lamb and Chrissy Houlahan, Senator Sharif Street, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym, and State Representatives Elizabeth Fiedler and Malcolm Kenyatta.
The person with direct knowledge of Braithwaite’s reasoning said he was nowhere near a decision, despite requests from interested strategists.
“Is it serious? Yes. Has he invested a lot of time thinking about it? Not a ton,” the person said.
Easily voted the Navy’s top civil servant by the Senate in May, Braithwaite promised changes after a series of service missteps.
He assumed the office of secretary after the Navy handled a coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt that led to the resignation of acting secretary Thomas Modly in April. Senate-ratified Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, was fired in late 2019 for handling the war crimes case of former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.
Braithwaite was haunted by questions about his affiliation with Cambridge Analytica prior to his verification process after CBS News reported that he may not have disclosed a contract with the now-defunct political advisory firm when he was nominated for his embassy. The company closed in 2018 after it was revealed that it had improperly collected data from millions of Facebook users in order to target voters in support of the 2016 Trump campaign.
Braithwaite declined to enter into a formal contract with Cambridge Analytica and the issue was ultimately not addressed at its confirmation hearing in May 2020.
Braithwaite remained unremarkable during his eight month tenure at the Pentagon. The government put in place a plan in the final months of Trump’s tenure to rapidly expand the size of the Navy to more than 500 ships, but National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien was the most vocal spokesman for the plan.