A Philadelphia emergency-room doctor and newcomer to politics is entering the race for the U.S. Senate.

Kevin M. Baumlin, chief of emergency and urgent care services at Pennsylvania Hospital, said the death toll of COVID-19 in the region and the failure of political leaders to respond to the crisis prompted him to jump into the race as a Democrat.

“I’ve been on the front lines throughout this entire pandemic,” he said in an interview Tuesday with The Inquirer. “I’m running for Senate for the 600,000 Americans and 25,000 Pennsylvanians … who have died, who are, sadly, disproportionately older adults and from Black and brown communities.”

Pennsylvania Hospital, in Center City, is part of the Penn Medicine network and has the historic designation of being the nation’s first hospital, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1751. Baumlin, who has chaired the emergency department since 2016, said he and his staff see 45,000 patients a year.

“The challenges we face come crashing through my doors every day,” he said in a video announcing his launch. “It’s not just COVID. It’s gun violence. It’s homelessness. It’s the opioid crisis.”

Baumlin, 56, joins a growing list of better-known Democrats running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican who isn’t seeking reelection. The contest is likely to be one of the most competitive races in the country — one that could determine control of the Senate and the fate of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda in the final two years of his term.

Declared Democratic candidates include Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of Allegheny County, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia, and Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh. Other Democrats widely seen as possible candidates include U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County, Chrissy Houlahan of Chester County, and Conor Lamb of Allegheny County, as well as Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and State Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia. Street is launching an exploratory committee on Friday.

Lower Merion developer Jeff Bartos is running on the Republican side, as is Kathy Barnette, of Montgomery County, who launched her campaign this week. Others, including former U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello of Chester County and combat veteran Sean Parnell, are considering it.

Baumlin enters the race relatively unknown but has compiled a campaign team that includes campaign manager Robert Dempsey, the former national states director for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign; finance director Emily Wurgaft Egan, formerly of the Clinton Foundation and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC; and senior adviser Rich Schlackman, president of RMS Associates. Steve Ayscue, a longtime political operative in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is doing research for the campaign.

His message is anchored by what he has seen over the last year. In his introductory campaign video, Baumlin recalls an 81-year-old man who came into the ER with the coronavirus and died within four hours.

“Pennsylvanians are dying,” Baumlin says in the video. “They’re dying because of disinformation, and lack of the ability of our leaders to put people first instead of their political agenda.”

Previously, Baumlin headed emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York. He is a Philadelphia native who graduated from Rutgers University and Drexel University College of Medicine. He lives in Fitler Square with his husband, Patrick, and their boxer, Duke.

Baumlin has extensive experience in older adult care and said he would prioritize senior issues, lowering drug prices, college affordability, and child care affordability, if elected.

Baumlin makes the second physician in the race after Arkoosh, who is an anesthesiologist.

“It brings a different perspective to the table,” he told The Inquirer. “I’m not speaking from high above, I’m speaking from the front doors of where these problems exist.”