Rep. Conor Lamb has begun telling some donors and supporters in recent days that he is likely to enter the Pennsylvania Senate race, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
Lamb has urged some donors to contribute quickly as he ramps up his fundraising operation ahead of a formal launch. The timeline for an announcement was not clear, and one source familiar with the Democrat’s thinking says there are no imminent plans to enter the race.
Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor who won a critical special election in 2018, has said he is seriously considering a run to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. He has been tight-lipped about his thinking, though his team has hired fundraising consultants and recently held a high-profile fundraiser with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). But these conversations represent one of the clearest signs that he is taking concrete steps towards running.
Some of those private conversations took place this week as Lamb has helped campaign for a Democratic state Senate candidate in the Scranton area — roughly 300 miles from his district in the Pittsburgh suburbs, which further fueled speculation that he would run statewide. Lamb is set to canvass voters in the area Saturday afternoon.
In a statement to POLITICO, campaign manager Abby Nassif-Murphy acknowledged that Lamb was eyeing the Senate race but said “no decision has been made.”
“This is a Frontline campaign in one of the most competitive districts in the country, and Conor is already facing attack ads from national Republican super PACs. So we’re going to keep raising money, defending Conor’s record and finding opportunities to help down-ballot Democrats wherever and however we can,” Nassif-Murphy said.
Already representing one of the toughest districts in the House, Lamb’s district could look tougher in 2022 after Pennsylvania is forced to lose a seat in redistricting. But those maps wouldn’t be drawn for months — long after Lamb and any other member of the state’s House delegation would need to declare a Senate bid.
Pennsylvania is already a crowded primary field for Democrats in one of their best pickup opportunities this cycle. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is the only statewide elected official running, and has $1.9 million in the bank after raising an enormous amount in his first quarter. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta had $217,000 in the bank. Val Arkoosh, a physician and Montgomery County commissioner, entered the race earlier this month.
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, another House member who is typically among the state delegation’s best fundraisers, told the Philadelphia Inquirer recently that she was seriously considering entering the race.
Lamb, who raised over $400,000 in the first quarter, had $1.1 million on hand as of March 31, according to his most recent financial disclosure.
If Lamb does enter the Senate race, many Democrats believe they would be unable to field a candidate who could hold onto his district next fall, likely costing them a seat. But the final contours of his district could be drawn by a court: Republicans control the state legislature, but Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf can veto their maps.