Pennsylvania Politics

What the Heck is Happening in Pa.'s US Senate Race? Here Are the Candidates

The entrance on the Republican side by TV celebrity "Dr. Oz" added some flair to a race experts believe will go down to the wire in 2022, and determine which political party controls Congress for the second half of President Biden's term.

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Pennsylvania’s two open races for a U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s office in 2022 puts the state in the spotlight once again as the midterm elections will decide control of Congress.

The Trump-endorsed candidate already dropped out of the race. A tattooed, 6 foot 7 inch mountain of a man is the leading fundraiser. "Dr. Oz" just joined the race.

What the heck is happening in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race, which is likely to determine control of Congress next year?

More than two dozen candidates have filed federal paperwork to run in 2022 for the open seat of retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, and more people could enter the race still.

It remains to be seen if a hedge fund manager with ties to former President Donald Trump, David McCormick, joins the Republican fray. Political analysts think he could replace the former GOP frontrunner, Sean Parnell, who dropped out two weeks ago despite having former President Trump's support.

Uncertainty on the Republican side is matched by the uneasy choice awaiting Democrats in Pennsylvania: will the party's voters in the May primary choose a progressive like Lt. Gov. John Fetterman -- who has raised more than $9 million so far -- or a moderate like U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb? Neither are from Pennsylvania's vote-rich Philadelphia region, which means someone like Montgomery County Commissioner Chairwoman Val Arkoosh could make a strong candidate in the primary.

In other words, neither party has a frontrunner at the moment.

Jessica Taylor, who studies senate and gubernatorial races for the Cook Political Report, said Monday that one big reason for the jumbled start to the race is that Republicans didn't groom a clear successor for Toomey. Meanwhile, she said, Democrats are still grappling with an internal struggle between the liberal and centrist factions of the party.

The state's electorate narrowly voted for Trump in 2016, only to swing back in 2020 to vote for Biden.

"Pennsylvania is always so close and we expect it to be very close," Taylor said. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a "toss up," which puts it in the squarely in no-way-to-tell-right-now category.

The open Senate race, combined with the gubernatorial race to succeed outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf, will make for a historic 2022 midterm election in Pennsylvania, Berwood Yost of Franklin & Marshall College said.

"Since 1970, when the new election rules took effect, we’ve never had an open gubernatorial race and open senate race at the same time," said Yost, who is in charge of the highly-regarded Franklin & Marshall College Poll. "You’re going to have a lot more interest than you’d normally have because you have two very important statewide campaigns being run."

Here is a full list of candidates who have filed federal campaign paperwork, and the amount of money they have raised so far, according to federal election filings:

Republican Candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania

  • Kathy Barnette ($809,000): A businesswoman who lives in Montgomery County and has frequently appeared on Fox News as a commentator
  • Jeff Bartos ($2.9 million): A businessman from Montgomery County who previously ran for lieutenant governor
  • John Debellis 
  • Sean Gale: A lawyer from Montgomery County whose older brother, Joe, is a Montgomery County Commissioner running for governor
  • James Edward Hayes
  • Bobby Jeffries ($41,000)
  • Ronald Johnson
  • Richard Mulholland
  • Mehmet Oz: A TV celebrity doctor who rose to fame as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey's show
  • Sean Parnell ($1.7 million): A former military officer from western Pennsylvania who suspended his campaign in November after losing a custody battle with his ex-wife
  • Max Richardson
  • Martin Rosenfeld
  • Carla Sands ($3.5 million): A central Pennsylvania native from the town of Mechanicsburg who served as an ambassador to Denmark during the Trump administration
  • Craig Snyder ($38,600): An anti-Trump Republican consultant from Philadelphia who withdrew from the race in September
  • Everett Stern ($99,000)
  • David Xu

Democratic Candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania

  • Val Arkoosh ($2.1 million): A medical doctor and current chairwoman of the Montgomery County Commissioners
  • Kevin Baumlin ($580,000)
  • Kael Dougherty 
  • John Fetterman ($9.2 million): Former mayor of Braddock, a city in western Pennsylvania, and the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania
  • Larry Johnson 
  • Malcolm Kenyatta ($1.2 million): A state representative from Philadelphia
  • Alexandria Khalil 
  • Conor Lamb ($2.6 million): A second-term congressman who represents a portion of Pittsburgh and the city's surrounding northwestern suburbs
  • John McGuigan ($143,000)
  • Kyle Norton
  • Eric Orts ($240,000)
  • Alan Shank
  • Walter Sluzynsky
  • Sharif Street ($367,300): A state representative from Philadelphia
  • Lew Tapera