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Conor Lamb preparing to launch Senate run in August

Pennsylvania Democrat joins crowded primary for open Toomey seat

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb is preparing to run for the state's open Senate seat, according to multiple sources.
Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb is preparing to run for the state's open Senate seat, according to multiple sources. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Conor Lamb is expected to launch a Senate campaign in August, according to three sources familiar with the Pennsylvania Democrat’s decision. 

Two sources said Lamb is planning a campaign event on Aug. 6 at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Pittsburgh, with one source noting that’s where the congressman is expected to announce his Senate run. Multiple sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the campaign to speak publicly about Lamb’s plans. Lamb’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Lamb, a Marine veteran and former prosecutor, will join a crowded primary field seeking to replace retiring GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey. Lamb would likely be the most moderate Democrat in the race, as he’s known for a willingness to buck his party and work across the aisle. However, Lamb has been more likely of late to vote with a majority of Democrats on votes that split the parties.

Lamb’s entry into the race also intensifies a geographic divide in the Democratic primary, with both Lamb and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman hailing from Western Pennsylvania. Two other candidates, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Val Arkoosh, who chairs the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, are based in the Philadelphia area in southeastern Pennsylvania, as is state Sen. Sharif Street, who is considering a Senate run.

Arkoosh and Kenyatta would both make history if elected — Arkoosh as the state’s first female senator and the first female physician in the Senate, and Kenyatta as the first openly gay and Black man to represent Pennsylvania in the chamber.

Other members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation who were mentioned as possible candidates after Toomey’s retirement announcement, including Democratic Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, Madeleine Dean and Susan Wild, have said they do not intend to run for Senate. 

Lamb brings a high profile and a strong fundraising ability to the primary. His House campaign raised $978,000 from April through June, according to Federal Election Commission filings. But he still trailed Fetterman, who raised $2.5 million in the second quarter. Arkoosh raised $1 million, followed by Kenyatta with $503,000.

Fetterman also led the Democratic field with nearly $3.1 million left in his campaign account as of June 30. Lamb had nearly $1.8 million on hand, while Arkoosh had $637,000 and Kenyatta $282,000.

First elected to Congress in a special election in 2018 that drew national attention, Lamb flipped a Western Pennsylvania district that Donald Trump had carried by 20 points in 2016.

In November 2018, Lamb ran for a full term from a different district after the state Supreme Court threw out the old map as a partisan gerrymander. He defeated GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus by 13 points in the new 17th District, which Trump would have carried by 2 points had the new lines been in place in 2016.

Running for a second full term last year, Lamb won a close race, defeating Army veteran Sean Parnell by 2 points while Democrat Joe Biden was carrying the seat over Trump by 3 points, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. Parnell is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate this cycle.

Pennsylvania is a top target for Democrats looking to expand their razor-thin majority in the Senate. Biden, a Scranton, Pa., native, won the state by 1 point last year, and Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the state as one of eight Senate battlegrounds in 2022.

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