PA Dems deadlock over approval of Senate race | News, Sports, Jobs
HARRISBURG, AP — Pennsylvania Democratic Party committee members deadlocked in suburban Harrisburg on Saturday in a vote to approve the party’s hotly contested primary race for U.S. Senate, giving Conor Lamb by far the most votes, but not enough for party support.
Winning an endorsement was a tall hurdle to clear, requiring two-thirds of the party’s roughly 350 committee members.
Lamb, a third-term congressman from suburban Pittsburgh, came the closest, with 60%, after working for months to win over committee members.
While his opponents have suggested that winning the support of committee members is an insider’s game, Lamb said it was an equal opportunity for each candidate to show party activists who had the best pitch, experience and the campaign to win in November.
“For me, the most important thing was showing these people what I mean when I say ‘I will fight for every vote anywhere in our state,’ and I think they all saw that for me, and that is why we have been so successful”, said Lamb.
Lamb had called each member of the committee several times, according to his campaign, and sent them letters, including one that sang that he “beat the Trump machine three times.”
The wide-open race for the battleground state seat vacated by two-term Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is expected to be one of the nation’s top Senate contests this year.
The Democratic field includes John Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, as well as Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia. The Republican field is notable for three wealthy, well-connected candidates who are leaving blue states to run in Pennsylvania.
Democrats had an easier time endorsing Josh Shapiro, the state’s two-term attorney general, in a unanimous vote against no competition. Committee members also endorsed Shapiro-backed state Rep. Austin Davis for the lieutenant governorship, giving him their support via a huge margin over another state lawmaker, Rep. Brian Sims.
The primary election is May 17.
By Saturday, Lamb already had the unanimous approval of the party’s Latino caucus.
Its chairman, David Rodriguez, said caucus members concluded Lamb was the best candidate to win the November election.
Lamb, he said, has been calling caucus members since last summer and showing a commitment to the Latino community, while the other candidates have begun reaching out in the past two weeks.
“I could call Conor Lamb right now and he would pick up the phone,” Rodriguez said in an interview Friday.
In his speech before the vote in the ballroom of the mask-wearing Democrats’ hotel, Lamb told committee members his approval would be “to put fear in the hearts” from Republicans because of his experience winning three congressional races on politically risky ground for Democrats.
In his speech, Fetterman suggested he lead the pack in more important ways: polls and fundraising.
Yet the outcome with the party’s core activists was at odds with Fetterman’s fundraising strength and his status as a statewide elected official and media darling for his plain language, dress casual and his 6ft 8in profile, bald and tattooed.
A campaign spokesperson ignored the vote afterwards, saying Fetterman’s campaign was not doing it. “running in ballrooms, our campaign crosses people in 67 counties.”
“The inner game is not our game” said spokesman Joe Calvello. “So nothing changes for us today. We keep doing our thing. We keep going to every county, every vote, talking to people.
In an interview after the vote, Kenyatta said campaigning for votes from committee members is the kind of “traditional politics” who continued to fail the workers.
Lamb, he said, had home-court advantage as “master of the internal politics of the baseball establishment” who helped Lamb avoid a primary challenge in his three campaigns for Congress.
“I’m a master at getting out there and talking to real people about what’s at stake in their lives,” said Kenyata. “I’m going to come out and lay out a vision for how we restore the basic market.”