May 9, 2022 - Politics

Primary election guide: Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race

Illustration of blue and red check marks arranged chaotically in layers.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

We're about a week out from Pennsylvania's primary election, and the crowded U.S. Senate race is drawing a flood of out-of-state cash and speculation over its implications for the future of the GOP.

  • Today, we're breaking down who's who among the candidates seeking to fill retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's seat.
Democrats

John Fetterman, Pennsylvania's current lieutenant governor, is the front-runner among Democrats, with deep fundraising efforts to match. He first ran for Senate in 2016, when he was the mayor of Braddock.

Conor Lamb, a congressman from Pittsburgh, is the Democrat moderate to watch. The former federal prosecutor has served in the U.S. House, representing conservative districts, since 2018.

Malcolm Kenyatta is a state representative from North Philadelphia who has built a progressive following. If elected, he'd be Pennsylvania's first Black and openly gay senator.

Alex Khalil, the only woman running in the Democratic primary, is a longtime Democrat activist in Montgomery County who currently serves on the Jenkintown Borough Council.

Republicans

Dave McCormick is known for leading hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and working as a Treasury official under former President George W. Bush. McCormick is ramping up fundraising in what's becoming one of the country's most expensive Senate contests.

Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor who launched his campaign in late 2021, scored former President Donald Trump's endorsement last month. Oz's name recognition and money has secured his spot among the top competitors.

Carla Sands, the former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands under Trump, has dabbled in Republican politics by contributing money to conservative candidates.

Kathy Barnette is a political commentator who has published a book about being a Black conservative. She lost a bid for the U.S. House in 2020.

Sean Gale is an attorney and the brother of Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, who's running for governor. They often make their campaign stops together. He often criticizes Toomey for not being conservative enough.

Jeff Bartos is a Montgomery County real estate developer with a platform pushing small businesses. He lost a bid for lieutenant governor in 2018.

George Bochetto is a long-time lawyer who leans into culture war rhetoric, pledging to overcome "woke mobs." He defended the Christoper Columbus statue in South Philadelphia in court and helped keep it at Marconi Plaza.

Between the lines: A poll released last week by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, showed a statistical tie among Republicans, Axios' Mike Allen reports.

  • Oz had 18% of respondents, and McCormick had 16%, with Barnette at 12%.
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