The Lead

Pa. state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta announces 2022 run for U.S. Senate

By: - February 18, 2021 7:57 pm

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, speaks during a House committee vote in September 2019. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, is running for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2022.

The second term lawmaker announced on Thursday that he was jumping into the race to fulfill “America’s promise” for all.

There nothing written on a tablet somewhere that America has to succeed” Kenyatta told MSNBC host Joy Reid. He promised a campaign focused on bringing together African Americans, young people, and suburbanites skeptical of the Republican Party.

He joins Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and former Norristown borough councilor John McGuigan as the two announced candidates who hop to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in the federal upper chamber.

Kenyatta, who is Black and openly gay, will bring diversity to the burgeoning field of contenders, while mirroring some of Fetterman’s strength as a sharp-elbowed social media user and frequent cable TV guest.

First elected in 2018, Kenyatta has attracted attention for viral posts showing his booming oration in the House, touching on such topics as raising the minimum wage and reforming state policing laws, as well as poking holes in claims of election fraud. 

In fact, a House GOP committee chair nearly ejected him from a committee meeting last year over the latter.

Kenyatta also endorsed President Joe Biden early on, even stumping for Biden in Iowa, and was featured as a Democratic rising star during the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

Speaking on MSNBC, Kenyatta named raising the minimum wage, student loan relief, and clean energy as top priorities. He added that he had already secured endorsements from the American Federation of Teachers, a union representing educators in many urban school districts such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as the Working Families Party, a progressive third party active in Philly city politics.

“This isn’t about a cult of personality, it’s about working people,” Kenyatta said.

Other Democrats are still rumored to be mulling a run. They include U.S. Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, Conor Lamb, D-17th District, and Brenden Boyle, D-2nd District, as well as Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh.

The eventual Republican nominee is also unknown. At least a dozen individuals, including former Eastern District U.S.  Attorney Bill McSwain, former Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and U.S. Rep. Guy Reschentahler, R-14th District have been mentioned as potential candidates.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.