If you haven’t realized it already, I think something is quite clear by this point. 2022 is coming way faster than I think any of us predicted. North Carolina already has two major announced candidates in Jeff Jackson (D) and Mark Walker (R). Alex Lasry (D) declared Thursday night he was running for the Wisconsin Senate seat. And John Fetterman (D) officially hopped into the Pennsylvania race two weeks ago. While we would all like a break, the 2022 election cycle is here. And in Pennsylvania, the Democratic Senate primary is adding a new face – one that could bring the climate to the forefront of the primary discussion.
Introducing Malcolm Kenyatta
This person is State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta. Kenyatta currently represents the 181st district in the Pennsylvania House. It is a majority-black seat that also holds the campus of Temple University. Kenyatta is a self-described progressive and activist, also holding history as the first LGBTQ person of color to be elected to the Pennsylvania legislature. He was first elected in 2018, replacing long-time Representative Curtis Thomas.
Kenyatta has been one of the more progressive members of the Democratic caucus since his election. This is no surprise considering his family history. His grandfather is Muhammad Kenyatta, who was a large figure in the civil rights movement and ran against Frank Rizzo for the Democratic nomination in the 1975 mayoral race. Kenyatta’s two big areas of focus have been poverty and climate. While his focus on poverty will not separate him from other Pennsylvania progressives, his focus on climate issues will. Especially since he plans on running statewide.
Climate to the Forefront Changes the Game
Running statewide in Pennsylvania, even as a Democrat, bringing up climate change has never been a big part of platforms. This is in part due to lasting Democratic strength in the western part of the state, where mining jobs were quite prevalent. Like everywhere else in America though, Republicans have started to take over the area. Former Democratic strongholds like Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties have sharply turned to the right in the past decade. As I mentioned in my previous article discussing this senate race, the Democratic base has shifted from the west to the Philadelphia area.
This shift now gives an opening to climate hounds like Kenyatta to bring their platform statewide. While the Philadelphia collars and Bucks are all still heavily white, like out west, they are vastly more educated. In fact, most of the state’s college graduates are concentrated in that part of the state. Climate issues are vastly more important to these more educated voters. Kenyatta already has connections to the Philadelphia branch of the Sunrise movement, one of the growing climate power groups in politics. With this, he could easily bring a platform that includes the Green New Deal to the forefront of the primary.
How this Could Hurt – or help – John Fetterman
John Fetterman is still, as of now, one of the most progressive politicians to run for statewide office in Pennsylvania. However, one of the issues he is not as aligned with the progressive wing of the party on is climate. This is because Fetterman supports fracking, or at least doesn’t want to get rid of it. This is where that east/west divide really shows. Fetterman understands fracking brings jobs to his area, even though they are not very climate friendly. That doesn’t play well in SEPA though, where climate change is a more vital issue. If it is a one v. one race, this could help Kenyatta draw some divides among ideological lines. The thing is, this won’t be a one v. one race.
This is where Kenyatta’s slightly surprising entry helps out Fetterman. Remember, in my last article about this race, I argued heavily that Fetterman was not a field clearer because of his geographic location. I have been proven right about that, but things do seem to be lining up for him to sneak through. Kenyatta will not be the only candidate from the southestern portion of the state. It’s quite likely he will not be the only candidate from Philadelphia, either. Val Arkoosh, a Montgomery County Commissioner and doctor, is almost assured to be running. And in Montgomery County, Madeline Dean seems to be testing the waters too. Also from Philadelphia, I have heard from some that the Philadelphia machine is preparing to back PA-02 Representative Brendan Boyle . This is the type of field that allows Fetterman to get through the primary.
In the next couple of months, this field will be more clear. For now there will be a lot of rumors and many a hot take. The most important person to watch through this process though will be Boyle. If he does get in, not only will he likely get more establishment figures backing him, but it will divide Philadelphia and the collars as well. For now though, this fight is between two very progressive candidates – something unheard of in Pennsylvania in any statewide primary. Whether it stays that way is highly unlikely, but who those other candidates will be will decide how this primary goes. Stick with Elections Daily for updates on not just Pennsylvania, but all the 2022 Senate races. Everything is kicking off now, and we will be here to analyze and cover it for you.