HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A ninth Democrat just jumped into the 2022 race for U.S. Senate to fill the seat that Pat Toomey (R) will vacate. There are six Republicans seeking that office.
Governor Tom Wolf is term-limited. His job is also up for grabs in 2022 and seven Republicans have already declared their desire to run. But in the battle to become the commonwealth’s next chief executive, Democrats are nowhere to be found.
No announced candidates. Zero.
“It is unusual,” David Thornburgh of the political watchdog group, Committee of 70. “That’s normally a pretty big fur fight. The fur usually flies in that fight around Pennsylvania.
Nothing to see here insists the statewide Democratic Party. “Dennis, I just want to remind you that it is still early,” Pa. Dems Communications Director Brendan Welch said. “There’s a long way to go before we decide our nominee.”
But not really. There are 10 months until the primary, a sprint in political terms. Though no Dems have declared, Attorney General Josh Shapiro has been running, and, apparently, clearing the field.
“He’s been working very hard behind the scenes, unofficially talking to people about his interest,” Representative Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) said, the House’s Minority Leader and one of the state’s top Democrats. “He’s galvanizing support in every part of this state.”
But consider that in 2016 John Fetterman, then the Mayor of Braddock, ran for the U.S. Senate. He lost to Katie McGinty but stepping onto the stage earned him statewide name recognition. He used it to become Lieutenant Governor a few years later and he’s now among the favorites in the U.S. Senate race. It is a straightforward playbook that no one else in the Democratic Party is following.
I asked McClinton about why no other Democrat, looking for a statewide stage and name recognition, at least throwing their hat in the ring?
“That is a question that remains to be answered,” McClinton said with a smile. “And I wish I had an answer for you.”
Thornburgh, son of late, Republican Governor Dick Thornburgh, has a theory. He credits Democrats for showing what he calls “internal discipline.” “Usually it’s the other way around,” Thornburgh said. “Normally, there’s a food fight among the Democratic candidates and the Republicans anoint someone.”
There will be no food fight for Shapiro, and the attorney general won’t have to fight through crowds to get his seat at the table. “There are a lot of folks really excited about him running,” Welch said. “The announcement should be coming sometime this fall.”
When he makes it official, Shapiro will have a huge war chest, large name recognition and will instantly become the favorite to win not just the opponent-less primary, but the general election as well.