As the Associated Press recently reported, Pennsylvania politics is in the national spotlight. And we in the LGBT community have two statewide races where members of our community are involved: for U.S. Senate, Malcolm Kenyatta; and for Lt. Governor, Brian Sims. Both those races changed in the last few days due to two events. First, the State Democratic Convention voted on endorsements on January 29, and the financial filings of campaign committees over the last year were filed January 31.
There are a few simple facts from the outcome of the two events. In the Senate race, Malcolm had enough support at the convention to get the party to not endorse any candidate and to therefore have an open primary in May. In the Lt. Governor race, Brian lost by almost 3 to 1 in the voting, and Austin Davis, an African American State Rep from Western PA, was endorsed and has the statewide party behind him.
Then there are campaign filings from the candidates. For 2021, Brian raised a little over $600,000. Malcolm raised just over $1.6 million.
So, why did Malcolm do so well and Brian so poorly on both outcomes?
For Malcolm, his campaign has caught fire by his passion and by a continuous stream of endorsements from his fellow state representatives, mayors, unions, and progressive organizations. Malcolm simply works with people, and his passion is believable. His major opponents in the race are current Lt. Governor Fetterman, Congressman Conor Lamb, and Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Val Arkoosh. Fetterman has the most funds in the bank, and Lamb has deep party support but was not able to get an endorsement.
For Brian it’s almost the opposite, and there is one factor that stands out. Brian’s opponent in the race, Austin Davis, was endorsed by Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for Governor. He was endorsed by Shapiro for a number of reasons, notably among them that in today’s climate you simply can not run a team for Governor and Lt. Governor that is made up of two white men from Philadelphia.
Both Malcolm and Brian should get credit for truly working the last year by going around the state and seeking support. Malcolm’s success at raising funds, gaining endorsements, and preventing an endorsement by the State Committee is remarkable. Brian’s campaign simply did not get the same level of grassroots or party support.
Both are still in the race, but there is a major difference. Malcolm is in a race where it’s an open primary, while Brian is in a race where the Democratic party and the candidate for Governor have united behind a candidate. The Democrats do not wish to use all their efforts now. They would rather focus on the November general election. If Brian stays in the race, the party has to work a primary and waste valuable funds and time. The November race for Governor is of the utmost importance to our community and it will be a tough fight, especially if it were two white men from Philadelphia on the ballot. Brian should not act as a spoiler.
Malcolm on the other hand is in a completely different position statewide due to the nature of the Senate race. If you break down the advantages of the candidates, they fall into these columns: Fetterman has the money; Lamb has major support from Democratic leaders throughout the state; but Malcolm has his passion and eloquence, and that he has outperformed and impressed the state’s politicos. No one at the state committee knows where the race for Senate will go, and so long as Malcolm continues to create a grassroots and diverse ground of support he holds well for his future.
Bottom line. While many in our community were rooting for Brian, he simply didn’t deliver. Malcolm has out performed on every level and continues to grow a diverse coalition.