Pennsylvania voters have the opportunity to change the balance of power in the US Senate.
The race for a Pennsylvania US Senate seat is widely considered to be one of the most important races — in the country — this year.
With Republican US Sen. Pat Toomey retiring and Pennsylvania a pretty purple state, many see it as a seat Democrats could win and change the balance of power in the Senate.
And the majority party will determine whether key initiatives to preserve democracy and improve the economy — such as voting rights legislation and a minimum wage increase, among others — make it to the president’s desk.
Four Democrats and six Republicans have active campaigns for the Senate race in Pennsylvania. Some are well-established state politicians, like Democratic candidates and current US Rep. Conor Lamb, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, state Sen. Sharif Street, and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Others have no political experience at all and there are questions about whether they even live in Pennsylvania, like television host Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Let’s take a look at the current field of candidates:
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, 52, of Braddock, Allegheny County, was the mayor of Braddock before he was elected to state office. He has used his position as lieutenant governor to advocate for criminal justice reform, better healthcare, raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, and legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.
Fetterman says addressing climate change and legalizing recreational marijuana are necessary actions that will create jobs. In 2019, he visited every county in the state, hosting town halls about legalization, and found that 65-70% of the attendees support legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use.
He is also an advocate for minority communities, immigration, and abortion rights.
Alexandria Khalil, of Jenkintown, Montgomery County, is an IT specialist and member of the Jenkintown Borough Council.
She is an advocate for special education and parents of children with disabilities. She has done work with the state Department of Health to fight disparities, and helped create a community outreach initiative to educate the community about the Affordable Care Act.
The key issues for Khalil include a “Medicare For All” healthcare model, affordable prescription drugs, reproductive rights free from government interference, paid sick leave and vacation time, a $15 minimum wage, and rebuilding schools with federal funds. She supports the legalization of adult-use marijuana, with profits going toward economic development in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
US Rep. Conor Lamb, 37, of Mt. Lebanon, Allegheny County, is a former Marine and federal prosecutor who currently represents the 17th Congressional District near Pittsburgh.
In Congress, he is vice chairperson of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Energy. He helped pass laws to extend benefits and improve mental health care for veterans, and make investments in climate change research.
He’s in favor of criminal justice reform, including decreasing prosecutions for possession of marijuana and passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Lamb supports universal background checks to own firearms, but wants the justice system to focus more on violent crime investigations and the government to invest in anti-violence youth programs.
Lamb wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
He also wants to protect access to abortion care.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, 31, of Philadelphia, is one of the youngest people elected to the state Legislature and the first LGBTQ+ person of color elected to the state Legislature.
Kenyatta is a state co-chairperson of Climate Power, a national coalition that endorses climate change action, and says he will support the federal THRIVE Act to combat climate change.
He supports a $15 minimum wage and a wealth tax for fortunes over $50 million, and says the government should prioritize low-income and minority communities to help the economy bounce back from the pandemic equitably. He wants to cancel student loan debt.
Kenyatta wants to protect access to abortion care.
Kathy Barnette, 50, of Huntington Valley, Montgomery County, is an author who is occasionally seen providing political commentary on FOX News. She’s an Armed Forces veteran and former finance professor who homeschools her children.
If elected, she would be the first woman and person of color elected to represent Pennsylvania in the US Senate, and the first Black woman Republican in the US Senate.
Barnette wants to prohibit schools from teaching students the real American history of slavery and racism.
She is anti-abortion.
Jeff Bartos, 47, of Lower Merion, Montgomery County, is a real estate developer and business owner. He ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 and lost.
Bartos co-founded the PA 30 Day Fund to raise money for small businesses during the pandemic. He also helped launch the Barstool Fund, which has given grants to small businesses all over the country.
Bartos is vaccinated but doesn’t believe the government should require it.
He is anti-abortion.
He opposes gun regulations.
Bartos hasn’t publicly voiced his opinion on raising the minimum wage.
George Bochetto, 69, of Philadelphia, is an attorney and co-founder of Bochetto & Lentz law firm. He was state Boxing Commissioner from 1995 to 2002. Bochetto briefly ran for mayor of Philadelphia 1999.
According to the Associated Press, Bochetto helped write a defense brief in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Bochetto has acknowledged President Joe Biden’s victory and said there “is no substantial evidence to demonstrate that the election was stolen.” He has said he would have voted to certify the 2020 election results; he is the only Republican candidate to have said so.
Bochetto has represented a group that is fighting to keep a Christopher Columbus statue, which many in Philadelphia view as a symbol of racism, in a public park in the city. He also is leading a lawsuit against Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, arguing that the mayor discriminated against Italians when he issued an order renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Bochetto opposes teaching the real American history of slavery and racism in schools.
Sean Gale, of Montgomery County, is a business and health care attorney who aligns himself with former President Donald Trump. His brother, Joe Gale, is running for governor of Pennsylvania.
Gale’s campaign promises to restore a “conservative backbone” to a Congress he says has lost its way. His key issues include securing the US borders and “America-first” anti-globalism.
David McCormick, 56, just left his job as CEO of a hedge fund based in Westport, Connecticut and moved to Pittsburgh to run in the US Senate race.
He is an Army veteran, and served as a senior official in President George W. Bush’s administration. His wife, Dina Powell McCormick, was Trump’s deputy national security advisor. McCormick has support from several former Trump officials, and according to Politico, former Trump aides are expected to join his campaign staff.
His hedge fund made significant investments in China, a fact his Republican opponents are highlighting.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, 61, is a physician in New York City, and former host of “The Dr. Oz Show.” It’s unclear if he actually lives in Pennsylvania: A 2020 biography on “The Dr. Oz Show” website saie he lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and kids. According to the Associated Press, Oz is registered to vote at his in-laws’ address in Montgomery County, and voted by absentee ballot this year.
Oz says America failed in responding to the pandemic. Oz supports vaccines and expanding research and funding for COVID-19 treatment.
In the last few years, Oz has promoted some questionable therapies, including pills for weight loss and hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment.
Oz is anti-abortion.
Carla Sands, 61, of Camp Hill, Cumberland County, is a former chiropractor who took over as CEO of her late husband’s investment company in 2015. Sands hosted a fundraising event for Trump’s 2016 campaign at her mansion and served on his Economic Advisory Council. In 2017, Trump appointed her as US ambassador to Denmark.
If elected, she would be the first woman elected to represent Pennsylvania in the US Senate.
Sands wants to implement stricter voting regulations, such as voter ID laws.
Sands is anti-abortion.
She opposes teaching the real American history of slavery and racism in schools.
Candidates Who Have Dropped Out
- Democrat Val Arkoosh
- Democrat Kevin Baumlin
- Democrat Eric Orts
- Democrat Sharif Street
- Republican Everett Stern