At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last month, President Joe Biden joked: “I came to office with an ambitious agenda, and I expected it to face stiff opposition in the Senate. I just hoped it would be from Republicans.” Even though the Democrats are technically in control of the 50-50 Senate, Biden has been unable to get the necessary votes on either of the bills that form the pillars of his agenda — specifically, Build Back Better and voting rights.
For that to change in the next two years, Democrats need their incumbents to hold on to their seats and pick up new ones. It’s hard to see a way for them to expand their majority, or even just hold control of the chamber, without winning the seat that Pat Toomey is leaving open in Pennsylvania.
On the ballot in the Democratic primary are Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Jenkintown Borough Councilor Alexandria Khalil.
Any of the candidates would be a reliable tie-breaking vote for the Biden administration. They all support Build Back Better, expanding voting rights, and the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the right to an abortion in federal law. Most important, they all support abolishing the filibuster — which is very likely the only way any of the biggest parts of Biden’s agenda can win passage.
In lieu of substantive differences on the major votes , voters are left guessing who is the most “electable” and could actually win statewide. That is not going to be easy. A reminder: Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in 2020 was only 80,555 votes and Republicans performed well in other races that year.
Pennsylvanians deserve a senator who is more than just a plus-one vote for the Democratic caucus in the Senate; it’s crucial that voters elect a candidate who would add value by representing the commonwealth. Based on his history of winning extremely competitive general elections, his familiarity with Congress from his time in the House of Representatives, and his thoughtfulness on tough policy questions, we endorse Conor Lamb.
A former federal prosecutor and Marine veteran, Lamb won his seat in Congress in a special election in 2018 by a margin of fewer than 1,000 votes. In the process, he flipped a Republican-held seat in a district that favored Trump in 2016 by nearly 20 points.
Democrats may be wary that Lamb’s heavily pro-Trump constituency might make him an unreliable vote for the party’s agenda and the White House (See: Manchin, Joe). The congressman’s voting record, however, suggests otherwise. In just the past session, Lamb voted in favor of Build Back Better, the Women’s Health Protection Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the For the People Act. Then there’s the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, and the bill to make D.C. a state. There is no need to guess how he would vote on these bills; he’s already done it.
Lamb, for Pennsylvanians, is the best choice in a talented field.
Malcolm Kenyatta, the North Philadelphia native who has the deepest roots with the state’s largest bloc of voters here in our city, is the most progressive candidate in the field. He’s earned high — and well-deserved — marks from his fellow Democrats for his performances in the primary season’s debates and he’s positioned himself well for future campaigns.
John Fetterman has spent the last four years re-centering the role of lieutenant governor around showing compassion toward people who have served decades in prisons. We applaud him for that work. But the dearth of his legislative experience is pronounced when compared with both Kenyatta and Lamb. Moreover, his lack of reflection has been disappointing when asked about the 2013 incident in which he brandished a weapon at a man he incorrectly suspected was involved in a shooting.
Alexandria Khalil jumped into the race from borough politics. We hope that seeing her on the debate stage and on the ballot will inspire others committed to public service to get involved.
It’s hardly hyperbole to say that the election for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania could help determine the course of the nation for years to come. We believe that Lamb has the ability to defeat a Republican in the fall and then join his Democratic Senate colleagues to protect abortion rights, expand the social safety net, and safeguard the right to vote.