As the 2022 Midterm Elections draw closer, Democratic U.S. Representative and Penn College and Law School alumnus Conor Lamb is expected to join the race for Pennsylvania’s vacant U.S. Senate seat.
With incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey not seeking reelection, factions of both Democrats and Republicans are vying for this critical Senate position. The result of this election could define which political party will hold Senate control for the next two years and could impact the Biden administration’s ability to pass legislation.
Recent announcements by U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean that they would not be running for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat were a blow to moderate democrats, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
In spite of these obstacles, moderate Democrats still have not lost hope, as there have been reports that centrist Conor Lamb will soon throw his hat in the ring and run for the senate seat.
Lamb, currently representing Southwest Pennsylvania’s District 17, has won three terms in relatively right-leaning districts. In 2018, Lamb made a name for himself after pulling an upset in District 18, a district deep in the heart of PA’s rust belt, and won decisively by Trump in 2016.
According to the Inquirer, many Democrats feel that a moderate figure like Lamb would be a more prudent choice compared to other more liberal candidates in a close split state like Pennsylvania, appealing to a broader swath of fence-sitting voters.
On the other hand, some voters are wary about Lamb potentially embracing an entirely centrist agenda. Rising College sophomore and former Daily Pennsylvanian reporter Noah Lewine, political director of Penn Democrats, notes that Pennsylvania has a largely young and progressive constituency that cannot be ignored.
“[Lamb’s] record is representative of someone who was in a district that is definitely more moderate, but as a [Senate] candidate he is going to need to be strongly in favor of certain progressive causes,” Lewine states. “The candidate who puts forward the clearest platform of progressive ideals … will turn out way more Democrats to vote.”
Lamb adopting a more progressive agenda may not be completely off the table either. At the time of his District 18 victory in 2018, he voted along the Democratic party line 77 percent of the time. So far in 2021, that record has been 99 percent, possibly reflecting his shift in attention towards a statewide Senate run.
“When it comes to [PA] Senate campaigns in general, the person who's going to win the support of young progressives like us in Penn Dems must be a person who represents the progressive values of the young people who helped to elect people like Joe Biden in 2020,” Lewine said.
Lamb would be joining numerous other notable Democratic leaders in the primary, many of which are also Penn affiliates, including 1999 Penn Law graduate Senator Sharif Street and former Perelman School of Medicine professor Valerie Arkoosh.
Penn Leads the Vote (PLTV), a non-partisan program that supports civic engagement at Penn and in surrounding communities, emphasizes the importance of voting in all upcoming elections such as the midterm.
“PLTV encourages students to educate themselves on all potential candidates, both in the upcoming Senate Primary, as well as in the Philadelphia municipal general election coming up this November,” Harrison Feinman, Director of PLTV, wrote in an email to the DP.
No matter the result of the Democratic Primary, Lewine says he is confident in the Pennsylvania blue wave, and that the winner will be up to the challenge of defeating their Republican opponent. He looks forward to seeing all Democratic candidates solidifying their platforms and spreading their messages across the state.
“I'm really excited for this Democratic primary, I think it's going to [foster] a great exchange of ideas and will ultimately produce a really good candidate for U.S. Senate who is going to become the next Democratic senator.”