Democratic clash takes shape in Pennsylvania as Rep. Conor Lamb enters Senate race
With control of a Senate split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans at stake and history suggesting the GOP enters 2022 with an advantage, as a first-term president’s party typically loses seats midway through, Democrats have no margin for error. The party is in defense in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. It also targets seats held by Republicans in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Lamb, 37, enters the race with $ 1.8 million already in the bank and fits the mold of moderate Democrats who have recently been successful in the party.
He won three House races in a conservative district of southwestern Pennsylvania. Joe Biden, then a former vice president considering his own political future, was the only National Democrat to campaign with Lamb in his first campaign, claiming ahead of the 2018 special election in which Lamb won his seat as the veteran and Navy attorney “reminds me of my son Beau.”
Lamb later became a surrogate for Biden’s presidential campaign and largely followed Biden’s more centrist approach to politics – though he also had some defining moments, including excoriating Republicans in the House after the riots of January 6 at the Capitol.
As he prepared to run for the Senate, Lamb hosted a virtual fundraiser with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. But Lamb broke with Manchin over filibuster, saying he thinks the Senate’s 60-vote threshold must go. Still, several Democratic agents involved in the race said Lamb would find himself pushing back comparisons with Manchin – which could help him appeal to independents and moderate Republicans in a general election, but could hurt primary voters. .
Fetterman has a quick advance on the cash
Fetterman, meanwhile, appears to be the top favorite in the race. Fetterman – who backed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, but said his message was to ‘vote blue no matter who’ because he stayed out of the 2020 contest – is a favorite of some progressives. He has also flexed his muscles in fundraising, raising $ 2.5 million in the second quarter of 2021 with a total of $ 3 million in the bank. And with his victory in 2018, Fetterman, who entered the Senate race in February, is the only candidate who has ever stood and won statewide.
The bald, goatee, work shirt, 6-foot-8-inch Fetterman also has a larger-than-life figure. He has the postcode of Braddock, the old steel town of which he was mayor from 2005 to 2019, tattooed on his left forearm; on his right forearm are the dates of every homicide that took place in Braddock while he was mayor.
And it does not fit perfectly into a political path. Fetterman has long been socially liberal: he performed same-sex marriages before they were legally recognized in Pennsylvania, and long advocated the legalization of marijuana – a potential key difference with Lamb, who supported the decriminalization of weed but not its legalization. He pushed for a higher minimum wage. Fetterman broke with progressives, however, by supporting fracking, saying Democrats need to be honest about what it would take to switch completely to renewables.
Fetterman’s campaign argues that he is the candidate with the best chance of winning statewide, highlighting donations from people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties and an average contribution of $ 28 – meaning he will have plenty of room to become small donors. in a constant flow of financial support throughout the race.
“People across the Commonwealth support John because he represents the necessary balance between the eligibility and reliability of democratic ideals in an era of a tightly divided Senate,” campaign spokesman Fetterman said. , Joe Calvello.
Contenders for history
There’s also a rival for progressive support: Kenyatta, who is 31, is black and gay, and could lean on Democratic voters interested in breaking down barriers. The Progressive Party of Working Families endorsed Kenyatta; as do the teachers’ unions and the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
Kenyatta endorsed Biden, served as a backup, and was selected as one of the party’s rising stars for a video speech at the Democratic National Convention. He also built his profile through appearances on MSNBC.
But he struggled to compete in fundraising, bringing in just $ 500,000 in the second quarter of 2021 with just $ 280,000 left in the bank at the end of the quarter.
Meanwhile, EMILY’s List, the powerful Democratic group that supports pro-choice women, has endorsed Arkoosh, the chairman of the board of commissioners for Montgomery County – the third largest county in the state.
A suburban Philadelphia doctor Arkoosh, 54, could consolidate some of the support reportedly given to Reps Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan, who both passed the race on to the Senate. Women make up a larger share of the Democratic primary electorate than men.
“As a physician, public health advocate, and president of Pennsylvania’s third largest county, Val has the experience, achievement and perspective that Pennsylvania Democrats seek,” said Ben Ray, spokesperson for the EMILY list.
The race features geographic divisions, with Lamb and Fetterman – a former mayor of Braddock, just outside Pittsburgh – both coming from western Pennsylvania, and Arkoosh and Kenyatta representing the Philadelphia area at the far end. is state.
It also offers voters the chance to make history in a state that has only ever sent white men to the Senate. Kenyatta is said to be Pennsylvania’s first black senator and openly gay man. Arkoosh would be the state’s first female senator and the first female doctor ever elected from either party to the Senate.
State Senator Sharif Street, a 47-year-old man who represents Philadelphia, is also considering running and, like Kenyatta, would become the state’s first black senator.
The field of Republican Senate candidates has been slower to develop and slow in fundraising. Montgomery County real estate developer Jeff Bartos and former ranger Sean Parnell, who lost to Lamb in a House race last year, are the best-known candidates.
Carla Sands, former Ambassador of President Donald Trump to Denmark, entered the race last month. Sands could appeal to Trump supporters, with Bartos and Parnell already arguing over previous statements criticizing the former president.
Conservative author and pro-Trump expert Kathy Barnette was a surprise in the last quarter of fundraising, April through June, raising $ 595,000. She was only following Bartos, who raised less from other donors but injected $ 440,000 of his own money into his campaign during that time, allowing him to declare around $ 1 million.
“Campaigns are marathons, but Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania are already running as far to the left as possible,” Republican National Senate Committee spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow said. “Conor Lamb is just another extreme progressive liberal joining the other extreme progressive liberals. Lamb voted 93% of the time with Nancy Pelosi and will be a buffer for dangerous liberal policies. The NRSC will spend every day emphasizing their positions who are out of step with voters in Pennsylvania. ”