Democrat Conor Lamb races to crowded Pennsylvania Senate

Democratic Representative Conor Lamb has entered the race to succeed retired Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, entering a competitive and crowded primary field in a state where President Biden won a narrow victory over incumbent President Donald Trump last year.

Several Republicans are also vying for Mr. Toomey’s seat and for Mr. Trump’s favor. The hotly contested primaries will determine the direction of the parties in a key battleground that could determine control of the Senate 50-50, with major implications for the fate of Mr Biden’s program.

“Pennsylvania is critical. This is our best pickup opportunity, ”said Senator Gary Peters (D., Mich.), Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

Pennsylvania proved crucial to Mr. Biden last year: his 20 Electoral College votes pushed him past the 270 he needed to win the presidency. The Swing State currently has a GOP Senator, Mr. Toomey – a Tory who voted to convict Mr. Trump in his second impeachment trial in February – and a Democratic Senator, Bob Casey, a moderate.

Mr Lamb, a centrist Democrat and Navy veteran, rose to national significance in 2018 when he won a special election in a traditionally Republican district where Mr Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton two years earlier.

“I know we can win this,” Mr. Lamb said in a fundraising email announcing his Senate bid on Friday. “Donald Trump has come to Pennsylvania to campaign against me three times, and we have won each time.”

Mr Lamb joins a group of Democratic candidates led by progressive Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the tattooed former mayor of Braddock, a small steel town outside of Pittsburgh.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, in Shenandoah, Pa., In 2019, is considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat.


Photo:

JACQUELINE DORMER / Associated Press

Widely regarded as the frontrunner for the nomination, Mr Fetterman reported last month that his campaign had $ 3.1 million in cash. His best-funded rival, Mr Lamb, declared about $ 1.7 million in the bank ahead of his Senate announcement.

Fetterman spokesman Joe Calvello said he has proven he can win statewide and noted that his campaign has received more than 250,000 contributions from donors in all 67 counties. He said Mr. Fetterman “represents the necessary balance between eligibility and reliability for democratic ideals in an era of a tightly divided Senate.”

Montgomery County Council of Commissioners Chairperson Val Arkoosh is an anesthesiologist supported by Emily’s List, a national group that has tens of millions of dollars to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights . She has $ 632,076 in cash on hand.

State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, a progressive from north Philadelphia, had $ 281,820 in his campaign coffers at the end of June. If elected, he would be the first openly gay black senator.

Also from Philadelphia, State Senator Sharif Street, vice chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, is considering a run. His committee brought in $ 190,500 in the bank.

The Democratic race is wide open, said Mike Mikus, a Pittsburgh party strategist.

He noted that Mr. Lamb has shown he can win tough races. Yet, he said, “every candidate has an argument as to why he would be the strongest.” He highlighted Mr. Kenyatta’s potential to boost participation in Philadelphia, especially among African American voters, Mr. Fetterman’s attraction to blue-collar workers, and Ms. Arkoosh’s potential appeal to the suburbs.

Republicans say the Democrats’ fight for grassroots voters in the primary will hurt them along with independents and moderates in the general election.

“It’s really a race on the left. These guys stumble to see how far they can go, ”said Chris Hartline, spokesperson for the National Republican Senate Committee.

“If Conor Lamb tries to present himself as a moderate, a moderate won’t win this primary,” Hartline said. “So Conor Lamb is either going to lose or he’s going to have to go further to the left than the other crazies in this race, and I just don’t think that’s where the voters in Pennsylvania are.”

In the GOP primary, Mr. Trump looms large, with candidates echoing his requests to audit the 2020 election results and criticizing each other’s past statements about the former president.

Sean Parnell, an author and former Army Ranger who narrowly lost to Mr Lamb in a House race last year, received an encouraging tweet from Donald Trump Jr. when he announced his candidacy in the Senate in May: “Sean is a friend and a strong conservative. fighter with a spine of steel.

Republican businessman Jeff Bartos, who announced his campaign in March, ran digital ads against Mr. Parnell, highlighting his rival’s 2016 tweet calling on Mr. Trump to release his tax returns. The Parnell campaign dismissed this tweet, and other criticisms of Mr. Trump, as old and out of context.

Mr Parnell, in turn, criticized Mr Bartos for donating to Democrats in the past and for saying that Hillary Clinton “could not have been nicer” in a 2014 interview that referred to the Mr. Bartos’ experience in internship for former Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Carla Sands, Mr Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark, and Kathy Barnette, a military veteran and conservative commentator who said she hoped to become the first black Republican woman elected to the Senate, were also courting the Trump base in the primary of the GOP.

Among the GOP candidates, Bartos has the most money on hand at $ 1.8 million, helped by an $ 840,000 loan to his campaign.

Mr. Kenyatta said the Republicans’ focus on Mr. Trump shows they are out of touch with what matters most to voters in the state.

“What voters are asking is, ‘Who’s going to center my family’s needs?’ “He said, while Republicans” are all fighting to get an invitation to Mar-a-Lago. “

Write to Lindsay Wise at [email protected]

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