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Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a gay up-and-coming politician in the Democratic Party, has announced he is running to be the commonwealth’s next U.S. senator in 2022.
Appearing on Joy Reid’s show The ReidOut on MSNBC, Kenyatta made the announcement that he would be seeking the seat currently held by Sen. Pat Toomey (R), who recently announced he would not run for re-election in two years.
“There’s nothing written on a tablet somewhere that says America has to succeed,” he told Reid. “You know, America succeeds because every generation steps up to protect and expand the promise of America — a promise that has excluded for too long so many working families whose lives were tough prior to COVID, and this deadly pandemic has made those cracks even worse.
“And so I know that we have an opportunity right now to expand on that promise, to make sure we that we have a country that doesn’t just talk about justice and fairness for all but that actually makes it real, and it’s with faith in that mission and joy in my heart that I’m announcing here tonight that I’ll be a candidate for the United States Senate to represent the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Kenyatta added.
Kenyatta was one of several younger Democrats who served as surrogates for the Biden-Harris campaign last year, a role that earned him a featured spot among a cast of “rising stars” within the party.
He was one of three out LGBTQ people featured in the segment, along with Robert Garcia, the first openly gay mayor of the city of Long Beach, California and an immigrant from Peru, and Georgia State Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville), the first out Asian-American elected to the Georgia legislature. Together, the three became the first out LGBTQ speakers featured in a keynote slot at a major party’s national convention.
Kenyatta became the second openly gay state representative, and the first gay Black state representative, in Philadelphia’s history, in 2018. He has been a longtime community organizer and political activist since childhood, and led student protests against former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for higher education in 2012. In the legislature, Kenyatta has attracted attention for viral speeches defending progressive policy positions such as raising the minimum wage and reforming the criminal justice system.
Kenyatta is currently slated to face off against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and John McGuigan, a former borough councilor in Norristown, in the Democratic primary, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Several other Democrats and Republicans are weighing bids.
Regardless of the outcome, with Kenyatta running for Senate, and fellow State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) running for lieutenant governor, there will likely be only one LGBTQ person left in the Pennsylvania General Assembly after 2022: State Rep. Jessica Benham (D-Pittsburgh), who became the first bisexual woman elected to the State House last year in a special election.
If Kenyatta is successful, he’d become the first out gay male senator, as well as the first Black LGBTQ senator, elected to public office. Currently, the only two out U.S. senators are Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, who is a lesbian, and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, who is bisexual. Kenyatta would also become the fourth Black U.S. senator in the body, and only the 12th in history to serve.
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