Malcolm Kenyatta announces his candidacy for a Pennsylvania Senate seat.
Democrats’ quest to expand their control of the Senate in 2022 heated up late Thursday with the entry of a second high-profile candidate seeking to claim the seat of Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican who is retiring.
Malcolm Kenyatta, a 30-year-old state representative from Philadelphia who has gained national exposure with regular appearances on MSNBC, joined the race, declaring in an announcement video: “Government hasn’t worked for working families like mine. I know what it’s like to see an eviction notice, to work a minimum-wage job.”
The Democratic field already includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who announced his candidacy last week. Other well-known Democrats are sizing up a run, including Representatives Conor Lamb and Chrissy Houlahan, and Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh.
After President Biden carried Pennsylvania in November, the Senate seat is the No. 1 pickup opportunity for Democrats in the country. The primary will take place in the spring of 2022.
Mr. Kenyatta, a community activist from North Philadelphia who was organizing before he was a teenager, won his first statehouse race in 2018. He was a trailblazer as an openly gay Black candidate in Pennsylvania. Though he has far less experience than Mr. Fetterman — who served four terms as mayor of Braddock, outside Pittsburgh, before winning statewide office — Mr. Kenyatta has been buzzed about among progressives.
He will challenge Mr. Fetterman for the support of the party’s left wing. Mr. Fetterman, who has hung a marijuana legalization flag from his Capitol office in Harrisburg, gained national attention for his efforts to revive Braddock, a town of high poverty and gun violence in the shadow of shuttered factories.
The primary contest with Mr. Kenyatta could gain urgency after the resurfacing of an incident from Mr. Fetterman’s past, when he, holding a shotgun, stopped a Black jogger in 2013. Mr. Fetterman, who is white, recently issued a video defending his actions. He said he had reacted instinctively after hearing gunfire and seeing a man in a face mask running toward an elementary school, just a month after the Sandy Hook school shootings.