Wharton professor Eric Orts is suspending his bid to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, his campaign announced today in a press release.
Orts centered his three-month-long campaign around combating the climate crisis. His exit leaves behind a wide field of candidates in the lead up to May’s Democratic primary.
Orts will return to teaching at Penn, he wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. He plans to continue fighting for Senate reform and climate policy despite dropping out of the race, according to the press release.
"I remain optimistic about the future, though it's disappointing that we didn't see more media coverage of our campaign, especially given that we were a U.S. Senate campaign in a competitive primary that was focused on the most critical issue facing our generation: climate solutions," Orts wrote. "The current coverage of the infrastructure bills, and the general failure to focus on the climate funding that's at stake, has also been disappointing."
Orts officially entered the race on July 2, several months after he launched an exploratory committee — although he told the DP in August that he began considering a run after former United States President Donald Trump’s election to the presidency in 2016. The election came as a shock to Orts, who condemned Trump's “tyranny” in an article he co-authored with two other Penn professors.
Orts took a leave of absence from Penn to focus on his campaign after consulting with his friends, family, and colleagues — including President Joe Biden.
In August, Orts released a “Green Paper” about his plan to invest in infrastructure that will tackle the climate emergency while also creating new jobs and economic growth in Pennsylvania. The paper included a section-by-section analysis of the economic benefits of climate solutions and the transition to renewable energy — and emphasized climate justice and mobilizing the economy to fight climate change.
“In our country’s history, emergency situations have galvanized Americans to cooperate and act decisively,” Orts wrote in the Green Paper. “To respond to the climate emergency effectively, we need to mobilize our citizens and our economy to act at a similar scale within a narrowing window of time.”
Prior to his Senate run, many of Orts’ courses and research endeavors at Wharton have focused on the environmental responsibility of businesses, including an undergraduate honors seminar, LGST215: Environmental Management: Law and Policy.
Other priorities Orts had planned to address as Senator include eliminating the filibuster — which he said has enabled “catastrophic climate inaction" and increased the role of institutions like the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodities Futures Trading Commission in regulating climate risks and rules, according to his press release.
His campaign’s press release noted that his departure from the race leaves a group of candidates who have “turned their backs” on climate action, adding that some have shown support for the fracking industry.
The Democratic primary race is currently led by candidates including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), and Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Pa.).
Cook Political Report analyst Jessica Taylor told WHYY News that Pennsylvania's “swing state” status makes the outcome of the general Senate election in November “unpredictable,” although she added that Democrats appear to have slightly better odds. Incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is not seeking reelection.