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State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta announced his run for U.S. Senate on Feb. 18. Photo: Youtube/Pa House Video.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta announced his run for U.S. Senate on Feb. 18. Photo: Youtube/Pa House Video.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta enters the 2022 U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania

The state rep is the second Pennsylvania elected official with a budding national profile to announce a run for Pat Toomey’s seat.

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The 2022 election season in Pennsylvania is shaping up to be one of the most exciting of recent memory in the state. 

Not only will Pennsylvanians pick a new governor and lieutenant governor, but with longtime Senator Pat Toomey stepping down at the end of his term, it will also have a new senator.

Since Toomey’s announcement, a number of the state’s biggest and fastest rising names on the Democratic side have expressed interest or formally announced their runs in 2022.

The first was current Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who first ran for the seat back in 2016, but lost in the primary to Katie McGinty.

Now, he’s going to face some stiff competition from North Philadelphia’s own PA Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who announced his run on the night of Feb. 18.

In addition to releasing his first campaign video across social media, Kenyatta announced his run in an appearance on The Reid Out hosted by Joy Ann Reid on MSNBC.

Since the 2020 election, Kenyatta has become a regular voice on the show.

The main theme of his first campaign video has Kenyatta calling for a “new day” for Pennsylvania.

“A new day that demands we acknowledge how out of reach the American promise has been for too many of us,” he says in the ad.

Not long after Kenyatta’s campaign announcement, he received endorsements from the Pennsylvania Working Families Party, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and the Temple Association of University Professionals.

Outside of local organizations, his announcement also captured the attention of comedians Wanda Sykes and Cristela Alonzo, the latter who endorsed him in a tweet.

He was born and raised in North Philadelphia, and is a graduate of Temple University. Since 2019, Kenyatta has represented District 181 in Harrisburg, which encompasses North Philadelphia near Temple University and parts of Kensington and Northwest in the city.

When elected, Kenyatta became the first openly-LGBTQ person of color elected to either chamber of the Pennsylvania legislature. In office, he’s stood in staunch support of a progressive agenda that’s included pushing for more rights and relief for marginalized communities in his district and beyond in the Commonwealth.

In 2020, Kenyatta went viral for his defense of low-wage workers during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, the Republican majority in Harrisburg was overturning Governor Tom Wolf’s shutdown orders in the state to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“This body overturning these constitutional shutdown orders of the governor flies in the face of what the Supreme Court has ruled in a recent case before it in regards to the shutdown,” he said at the time. “But let’s also say something about, ‘Oh, we need to get back to restaurants. We need to get back to cutting hair. We need to get back to all these service-based jobs.’ What we’re demanding right now, what folks are demanding is that they get to be served, that they get to go to a restaurant and sit down and be served by a service worker who they refuse to pay a $15 minimum wage.”

He was booed, but captured the collective frustration of the nation in seeing how low-wage workers, often of color, were being sent to their deaths amid the pandemic with little safety precautions.

Given how long 2020 felt, 2021 may also have a similar arc. But what awaits Pennsylvania electorally in 2022 will be a story to tell.

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