HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The May 17 primary election for the open Pennsylvania seat in the United States Senate is just a few short weeks away and three Democratic primary candidates, hoping to get Pennsylvanian’s votes, will debate for one hour on Thursday, April 21 at 8 p.m. Watch live on YourErie.com.
The debate will both air and live-stream in 10 markets across Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Maryland, reaching 9.8 million TV and streaming households in every county of the Keystone State.
WHTM abc27 News anchor and Capitol Bureau Reporter Dennis Owens and WPXI Anchor Lisa Sylvester will co-moderate the debate from the abc27 studio in Harrisburg.
Ahead of the debate, catch up on the latest with each candidate who will be on abc27 Thursday night, below:
John Fetterman, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor
While many of the polls recently conducted did not reveal a clear leader in the Republican primary, there has been a consistent frontrunner for the Democratic party — Pennsylvania’s Lt. Governor Fetterman.
A WJET/WFXP/Emerson College Polling/The Hill poll conducted from March 26 to 28, interviewing 508 Democrats, showed Fetterman receiving 33.4%, a significant lead over the other candidates. In a breakdown by age, Fetterman led in all age ranges and a significant number of white voters supported him over any other candidate.
In an even more recent poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall, while nearly half the 785 registered voters surveyed between March 30 and April 10 said they will vote for a Republican congressional candidate, Fetterman still led the Democratic party. His advantage increased to 41% of voters.
As previously reported by The Hill, analysts believed Fetterman was pulling ahead in the nominating contest before either poll was conducted.
Financially, Fetterman also leads the Democratic field when it comes to total campaign fundraising. According to Q1 financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, Fetterman raised $3,1000,176.86 in the first three months of 2022.
Plus, he leads all Senate candidates in either party with $15,098,281.49 raised since his campaign began.
As reported by the Associated Press last week, Fetterman has been on the defensive in recent weeks after Lamb, Kenyatta, and a super PAC supporting Lamb accused Fetterman of being extreme. Fetterman responded by saying to a crowd of party voters in State College last week that he would only run a “positive campaign.”
Another highly discussed criticism of Fetterman is over a 2013 incident when, shotgun in hand, he confronted someone who he thought was involved with gunfire in Braddock. Lamb and Kenyatta have raised the issue more than once.
On his campaign website, Fetterman says that the criminal justice system needs a significant overhaul, plus, he supports legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, a $15 minimum wage in the state, and that health care is a fundamental right.
Conor Lamb, Western Pennsylvania Congressman (D-17)
The only other candidate to receive a double-digit percentage of voters in the WJET/WFXP/Emerson College Polling/The Hill poll is Western Pennsylvania Congressman Lamb (D-17). He received the second-highest number of voters, behind Fetterman, with 10% of the 508 Democrats.
The percentage of voters committed to voting for Lamb in the primary increased in the Franklin & Marshall poll. Again coming in behind Fetterman, Lamb received 17% of voters.
A month ago, and prior to either poll, an Associated Press article noted that Lamb is a rising star among moderates in the House. He is being supported by a super PAC, which “laid the groundwork for attacks over electability, effectively presenting Fetterman as just as tied to the left as Sanders or the Squad and painting Lamb as a more palatable alternative.”
Democrats who support Lamb see such attacks as their best shot of beating Fetterman as he changes the tone of the race.
In the Democratic party, Lamb also has the second most Q1 contributions in the first three months of 2022, with $1,759,096.46. Among all candidates in either party, he has raised the fourth-highest amount with $5,740,022.26.
On his campaign website, Lamb says he supports raising the minimum wage to $15, protecting and strengthening the Affordable Care Act, recommitting to public education, and reinventing clemency and the pardon process in Pennsylvania.
Malcolm Kenyatta, Philadelphia State Representative (D-181)
Coming in third in both of the previously mentioned polls is State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181). In the WJET/WFXP/Emerson College Polling/The Hill poll Kenyatta received 7.6% of the 508 Democratic voters. The gap between Fetterman and Kenyatta did shrink, however, in African-American voters with Fetterman leading only by 1.2% more.
The percentage of voters committed to Kenyatta dropped, however, in the Franklin & Marshall poll. He received 4% of the voters.
The State Representative from Philadelphia received the third-highest Q1 contributions in the first three months of 2022 with $301,173.62. He also has the seventh-highest total raised among candidates in both parties with $1,844,861.88.
While Kenyatta has received the least among the three candidates debating Thursday night, he has received both donations and verbal support from multiple celebrities including Halle Berry, Amy Schumer, Robin Thicke Tasha Smith, and Wanda Skyes, during his campaign run.
Another high point in Kenyatta’s campaign: he was the first to receive the required number of signatures just three days after the petitioning window opened for the Senate candidates. He collected signatures from seven different counties to be the first official candidate added to the May 17 primary ballot.
On his campaign website, Kenyatta says he supports implementing reform in the criminal justice system, funding schools equally and expanding programs within school systems, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in order to curb mass incarceration.
The one hour debate will air on eight television stations serving the state: WHTM-TV (ABC) in Harrisburg/Lancaster, Lebanon, York, WPXI-TV (NBC) in Pittsburgh, WPHL-TV (MyNetworkTV) in Philadelphia, WTAJ-TV (CBS) in Johnstown/Altoona/State College, WBRE-TV (NBC) and WYOU-TV (CBS) in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton, WJET-TV (ABC) and WFXP-TV (FOX) in Erie, and MyYTV in Youngstown, OH.
In addition, the debate will be live-streamed on WETM-TV (NBC) in Elmira, NY, WPIX-TV (CW) in New York, NY, WIVB-TV (CBS) in Buffalo, NY, and WDVM-TV (IND) in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, all radio stations throughout the commonwealth will be provided free access regardless of their market.
The candidates will be asked for their views on the infrastructure, the economy, foreign policy, the legalization of recreational marijuana use, and other important topics impacting Pennsylvania.
To learn more about the other candidates running for Pennsylvania’s open United States Senate seat, click here.