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PA-Senate: Republicans in Trouble

Former US Ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands — a Pennsylvania senate candidate to watch.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 29, 2021 — The Keystone State of Pennsylvania, with an open Senate and governor’s race, will be a focal point of the 2022 election cycle, and last week the Republicans’ early problems grew worse.

The Pennsylvania GOP began this election cycle in a seemingly underdog position as they fought to hold the Senate seat from which two-term incumbent Pat Toomey (R) is retiring; now they are clearly playing from behind.

Iraq War veteran Sean Parnell (R) had former President Donald Trump’s endorsement and was leading the Republican primary in early polling. However, due to losing a child custody judgment rendered at the beginning of this week after a contentious trial in which his ex-wife had accused him of domestic abuse, Parnell withdrew from the Senate contest.

It’s a loss for his party, but Parnell wasn’t even the best of candidates. In his first bid for public office, running for the 17th Congressional District seat against Allegheny County area incumbent Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh), now himself a Senate candidate, Parnell came close but lost 51-49 percent. Based upon a close defeat in a winnable district, he decided to make a statewide Senate run.

Two other primary opponents, former lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos and Army veteran, Trump campaign activist, and former congressional candidate Kathy Barnette, also lost their most recent political races. Therefore, the original three leading Republican candidates in either polling or fundraising hadn’t ever won a race and were falling well behind their Democratic counterparts.

The Democrats feature the overall early race leader, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. He commands first position in primary and general election polling and has raised way more campaign capital than all of his opponents, over $9.2 million through the Sept. 30 financial disclosure period.

John Fetterman, however, isn’t without his own flaws. In 2013, when he was mayor of Braddock, a borough southeast of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County and located on the Monongahela River, Fetterman pulled a loaded weapon on an unarmed African-American jogger after hearing gunshots fired in his neighborhood. The Fetterman campaign has already produced a short video explaining the incident in anticipation of this becoming an issue in his 2022 statewide effort.

Rep. Lamb is running second to Lt. Gov. Fetterman in polling and dollars raised, almost $7 million behind his chief Democratic rival. The latest poll, from the Civiqs organization (Oct. 31-Nov. 1; 929 likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters, online) found Fetterman way ahead of Rep. Lamb, 52-12 percent, with other announced and possible candidates, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, and potential contender Sharif Street, a state senator and son of former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, all polling at five percent or less.

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