Moderate Democrat Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania sets sights on U.S. Senate seat
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb speaks during his election night rally in Pennsylvania’s 18th U.S. Congressional district special election against Republican candidate and State Rep. Rick Saccone, in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Representative Conor Lamb, a moderate Democrat with a track record of winning districts with large numbers of conservative voters, on Friday launched a bid for the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania held by retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey.
Lamb’s entry shakes up an already crowded Democratic field seeking the party’s nomination for what could be one of the most competitive races in the 2022 congressional elections.
It also highlights divisions within the Democratic party.
Lamb will face Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman — known for his advocacy of progressive policies like universal health care as well as for his casual dress, tattoos and 6-foot 9-inch (2.06 m) frame — in the Democrats’ nomination contest next June.
Lamb has said progressives in his party have veered too far to the left, such as by pushing police funding cuts to address police brutality and systemic racism.
«You have this progressive versus centrist battle going on,» said Jessica Taylor, a political analyst at the Cook Political Report, which rates the Pennsylvania race as a likely toss-up between whichever candidates the Democrats and Republicans ultimately field.
Moderate Democrats have recently prevailed over progressives in high-profile contests including a special Ohio primary for a U.S. House seat and the New York mayoral primary.
Other Democratic candidates for the Pennsylvania Senate seat include Valerie Arkoosh, who chairs the county board of commissioners for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
While Democrats lost ground in 2020 congressional races even as Democrat Joe Biden won the presidency, Lamb has won three straight elections in tightly contested swing districts.
Taylor said the Pennsylvania contest is likely the best chance Democrats have to pick up a Republican-held seat in the Senate, which Democrats currently control by the narrowest of margins.
On the Republican side of the contest, fealty to former President Donald Trump promises to be a key issue in the party’s nomination contest.
Republican candidate and conservative commentator Sean Parnell has backed Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s winning of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in the 2020 presidential contest. Businessman Jeff Bartos, another leading Republican candidate, has said he voted for Trump, but he has not backed Trump’s baseless claims that Biden’s victory owed to fraud.
In a video announcing his candidacy, Lamb said the election would be a key battleground for heading off Trump’s influence.
«The other side denies reality and worships Trump. They’re making it harder to vote and lying about our elections,» he said.
Fetterman has dominated the field in fundraising, ending June with $3 million in the bank. Lamb had $1.7 million while Bartos had $1.8 million and Parnell about $600,000.