Differences, Similarities Among Democratic Senate Candidates

The three candidates for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Republican Pat Toomey share much in common. 

“I think I have the experience of doing the job serving in Washington. I have actually worked on and voted for most of the really important bills that we need our next senator to vote for. … I’ve also shown I can win in tough areas.” – Conor Lamb

“I have been working on advancing and championing the same core group of principles, ideas and ideals, for the last 20 years.” – John Fetterman

“I don’t think people have to look like me or love like me to know that I’m going to fight for them… I think that the perspective that I bring is critical not just to have ornamental diversity, it is about policy.” – Malcolm Kenyatta

They support voting rights and helping working families. That government needs to help working people. Make life better through more affordable healthcare, cheaper prescription drugs, a liveable minimum wage and a democracy free of influence and corruption.

They also have differences.

Experts know that candidates for a party nomination flock to the base in the primary. Once the nomination is secured, the task is moving back toward the middle to entice crossover voters.

In these highly-partisan times though, voters’ minds may shift more to who can win an election versus who is the best choice to carry the party banner into an election battle.

“It’s a reflection of the incredibly partisan moment we’re in,” said Chris Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Electing a Republican, for a lot of Democrats, is simply not acceptable. So you start focusing on the other key matter: electability.”

Lt. Governor John Fetterman offers that he can unite the rural working-class voters that left the Democratic Party for Donald Trump. U.S. Representative Conor Lamb believes he can rebuild the coalition that brought Joe Biden to the White House. And Malcolm Kenyatta says he can excite young voters and bring more people of color out to the voting booth.

Agreed: Raising the minimum wage; ending the filibuster; defending abortion rights and only backing judicial nominees that will do the same; supporting a ban on assault-weapons; and supporting access and affordability to quality healthcare.

Their differences? Uh.

Marijuana. Fetterman wants to legalize its recreational use, while Kenyatta supports its federal legalization. Lamb supports the decriminalization of marijuana and legalizing medical marijuana.

“It just took marijuana completely out of federal law,” Lamb said on our PoliticsPA podcast last month. “If you think about … a construction crew and a bill like that goes into law where just all of the sudden there’s no rules on marijuana and half of your crew shows up positive for cannabis and they’re supposed to be running heavy equipment … you’re not gonna know what to do.”

Fracking. Kenyatta supports a moratorium on new fracking sites and an end to tax breaks for producers in the Commonwealth. Fetterman and Lamb, both of whom are from the western part of the state, oppose any ban.

Fetterman, as lieutenant governor, does not have a legislative record to run on or defend. Lamb was elected in the conservative-leaning 17th District. His early voting record is more centrist but has since become more consistently “Democratic.” Kenyatta (D-181), who has served in Harrisburg since 2019, has a short voting record that mostly opposes the Republican-controlled legislature. 

Electoral College. Again, Kenyatta differs from the other two as he supports abolition. 

Voters have yet to see the three candidates on a public stage together, but may get their first opportunity on April 3 in Allentown at Muhlenberg College.

5 Responses

  1. Congressman Conor Lamb has experience at the federal level, has passed legislation in a hyper partisan atmosphere, is moderate,works across the aisle and is a proven problem solver. He can win in the fall as he’s already beaten 3 Trump acolytes.

    1. Lamb is a nerdy generic Dem with no charisma that people know will vote for whatever he thinks will get him elected. A generic Dem is guaranteed to lose in the current political environment. I don’t know if Fetterman can win either, but he’s the only chance.

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