In this September 2020 file photo, Sean Parnell walks through people gathered at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
CNN  — 

Former President Donald Trump waded into Pennsylvania’s US Senate race on Wednesday, endorsing Sean Parnell, an Army veteran and former congressional candidate, in the competitive Republican primary.

With Republican Sen. Pat Toomey not seeking reelection, Democrats see Pennsylvania as one of their top pickup opportunities in the 2022 midterms. Republicans, meanwhile, hope to hold the state as part of their pathway to retaking the Senate majority.

A slate of well-known Democrats – including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and US Rep. Conor Lamb – have entered the race.

Trump picked Parnell over several other Republican candidates, including businessman Jeff Bartos, Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette.

In his endorsement, Trump repeated his “Big Lie” of fraud in the 2020 election, falsely claiming that Parnell – who lost his 2020 House race in Pennsylvania’s 17th District to Lamb by nearly 10,000 votes – was “robbed in his congressional run in the Crime of the Century—the 2020 Presidential Election Scam.”

“Sean bravely fought for our Country as a Captain in the U.S. Army and was awarded two Bronze Stars (one for valor!) and the Purple Heart. Unlike our current administration, he never left anyone behind,” Trump said, in a shot at President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

The endorsement underscored Trump’s desire to be a major player in next year’s Republican primaries.

He has now publicly supported his allies in a handful of key Senate races – including backing former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia, Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina, Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama and Kelly Tshibaka, who is taking on incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska.

By stepping aggressively into primaries, Trump is ignoring the public pleas of Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to stay on the sidelines.

Parnell already had the support of Donald Trump Jr., who in May tweeted that “Sean is a friend and a strong conservative fighter with a spine of steel.”