It’s been an eventful few months in the contest to replace Pennsylvania’s retiring junior Senator Pat Toomey.
First off there’s Lt. Governor John Fetterman, who’s been subjected to the double-edged sword that is the front-runner experience. On the one hand, Fetterman brought in an impressive $3.9 million over the first three months of 2021. At the same time, he just can’t seem to shake off a controversial 2013 incident.
The episode in question occurred when the then Mayor of Braddock, believing he had heard gunshots, pursued a jogger and brandished his shotgun. The runner possessed no weapons and claimed that Fetterman had profiled him. Despite taking criticism, Fetterman has repeatedly refused to apologize.
The bizarre nature of this tale was exemplified when the man Fetterman pursued recently re-emerged (he is currently in prison for an unrelated offense). While asserting that Fetterman was lying about everything, he still expressed the hope that Fetterman would win.
As Fetterman was dealing with all that, several more Democrats jumped into the race.
State Senator Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia made a splash when he entered with the endorsements of the Working Families Party and the American Federation of Teachers. He also scored a bit of a coup by winning the support of Braddock’s current Mayor Chardae Jones.
Kenyatta, however, won’t be the only candidate from Southeast PA in this race. In fact, he may not even be the only State Senator from Philadelphia, as Sharif Street is forming an exploratory committee. The son of ex-Mayor John Street, he’s compiling a panel of supporters that will include such notable officials as Rep. Dwight Evans and State Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa.
One Philadelphia politician who is staying on the sidelines for now is Rep. Brendan Boyle, who recently revealed that he won’t be entering the race. The Democratic field is far from settled, though, as Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh just jumped in.
Watching and weighing all this are the Congressional trio of Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan and Connor Lamb. Thanks to Census delays, they’ll have to decide whether to risk seeking a promotion to the Senate without even knowing what their House district could look like next year.
Meanwhile, the other side of the aisle has been much quieter, as a GOP favorite has yet to emerge.
2018 Lt. Governor nominee Jeff Bartos is the only notable name who’s thrown his hat into the ring so far. The real estate developer is getting involved in the Trump Primary early as well, praising the former President in his announcement video.
Who can top that? How about someone who proudly attended Trump’s January 6th rally? Kathy Barnette, the 2020 Republican nominee in PA-4, is hoping that’s the case.
Some other strong Trump supporters still weighing a run include Congressman Mike Kelly and Ambassador Carla Sands. Conversely former Rep. Ryan Costello, a notable Never-Trumper, remains a possibility as well.
The open Gubernatorial contest is the likely culprit for this partisan imbalance. Attorney General Josh Shaprio is widely expected to enter that race, so all the other Democrats are looking towards the Senate. Without a similar figure shaping decisions on the GOP side, potential heavy hitters are waiting to see what everyone else does.