On Tuesday, the eyes of the nation were fixed on the Republican primary for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat. As that race remains too close to call, U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb — who was broadly considered a Democratic rising star — was soundly defeated in his party’s primary.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s victory over Lamb came despite Fetterman suffering a stroke over the weekend and successfully undergoing a procedure to receive a pacemaker on election day. With 93% of the vote reported as of Wednesday afternoon, Fetterman managed to secure over 59% of the Democratic base — more than double Lamb’s 26% share.
Fetterman — who was the longtime mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, before becoming lieutenant governor in 2019 — is by no means a conventional candidate. The six-foot-eight, 52-year-old politician is known for wearing basketball shorts and a hoodie to campaign events. As Fetterman said in one campaign interview: “I’m just a dude that shows up and just talks about what I believe in, you know?”
Lt. Governor John Fetterman (D-PA) pic.twitter.com/JPMCJgQPbw
— Dripped out Politicians (@PoliticDrip) May 18, 2022
In 2013, Fetterman reacted to what he believed to be gunfire by pulling a shotgun on an African-American and detaining him until police arrived. The incident has generated unease among black Democrats.
Meanwhile, Conor Lamb is a Marine veteran and former prosecutor who earned national recognition for defeating Rick Saccone, a Republican, in the 2018 special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district. As The New York Times recently described, Lamb is a “moderate who had won in Trump territory and swing suburbs alike.”
Nevertheless, the 37-year-old, clean-cut lawmaker failed to excite the Democratic base in what promises to be a polarizing midterm season.
“He had rock star potential — their campaign flittered that away,” longtime Pennsylvania Democratic operative and Lamb supporter Mike Mikus told The New York Times. “They ran a campaign that said, ‘Let’s stay above the fray. Everyone’s going to love it.’ But they were behind from the day he got in the race and ran the wrong campaign to close the gap.”
President Joe Biden endorsed neither Lamb nor Fetterman in the Senate primary — even though he did mistakenly thank “Senator Lamb” in a recent promotional stop for his infrastructure law. Biden has also compared Lamb to his late son, Beau, on multiple occasions and campaigned alongside Lamb in his 2018 congressional race.
On Tuesday evening, President Biden lauded Fetterman for his victory, saying in a statement that the nominee “understands that working class families in Pennsylvania and across the country have been dealt out for far too long.” The statement also condemned any Republican that Fetterman faces in the fall as “too dangerous, too craven, and too extreme” to represent Pennsylvania.
National media has focused on Pennsylvania as a key “abortion battleground” ahead of the Supreme Court’s likely overturning of Roe v. Wade. Pennsylvania currently has a Republican-led legislature — meaning that policies surrounding abortion could be largely shaped by the outcome of the fall elections.
The Pennsylvania Department of State said in a Tuesday statement that the results of many close elections will not be immediately available. Among these races is the Republican Senate primary, in which television host Dr. Mehmet Oz and former Bush official David McCormick are the top contenders.
“We expect to have unofficial results within a few days,” the statement said. “Given the possibility of recounts and the need for official certifications, it is unlikely that final results in all races will be available tonight.”