Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh secured a key endorsement Monday in her run for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat, winning the support of EMILY’s List, an influential women’s group that plays a major role in Democratic politics.
Pennsylvania Democrats saw its clout in 2016, when EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, spent $5.7 million aiding Katie McGinty in her Senate campaign, according to the group. That included $1.8 million to help propel McGinty to a primary win over former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak and John Fetterman, who is now Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor and an early front-runner in the 2022 Senate primary.
The big spending from EMILY’s List and other Democratic groups in Washington proved crucial to McGinty’s primary victory. She later lost narrowly to Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican who is not seeking reelection next year.
The EMILY’s List endorsement, and the financial backing that likely comes with it, could be a significant boost to Arkoosh, who leads the state’s third-largest county but hasn’t had the wider political exposure of a rival like Fetterman, who is expected to be the strongest fund-raiser.
“Val has seen firsthand the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s working families,” Emily Cain, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “In her time as a physician, she saw the traumatic impact of gun violence, the outrageous cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and the systemic inequities in health care based on race, gender, and income.”
Pointing to the continuing health and economic effects of the pandemic, a national reckoning over systemic racism, and the fight against climate change, Cain added: “If we want to continue making progress, we must expand our Democratic majority in the Senate with strong women leaders like Val, who will fight every day to improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians.”
Pennsylvania’s Senate race is among the most crucial and competitive in the country, one of a handful likely to determine control of the chamber. With Toomey retiring, many Democrats see the contest as their best chance to flip a Republican-held seat. They’ll have to choose between a wide range of candidates as they decide who’s best suited to the task.
Pennsylvania has never elected a woman to the Senate, something many Democrats are eager to change.
“EMILY’s List understands that we need more leaders in Washington determined to fight for workers and families every single day, and has a strong track record of helping campaigns grow and succeed,” Arkoosh said in a statement. “I’m prepared to bring my skills as a physician and chair of our Commonwealth’s third-largest county to Washington on behalf of every Pennsylvanian.”
The endorsement comes shortly after two other prominent Democratic women, U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan, announced they won’t run for Senate, leaving Arkoosh as the only well-established woman in the Democratic field.
Other prominent Democratic candidates include Fetterman and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, of Philadelphia. Others are looming as potential candidates, including U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, of Allegheny County, and State Sen. Sharif Street, of Philadelphia.