The Pennsylvanian would be the first Black gay man — and first gay man overall — in the chamber.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta is running for U.S. senator.
Kenyatta, a Black gay man who’s considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, made the announcement Thursday on The ReidOut on MSNBC.
“There nothing’s written on a tablet somewhere that says America has to succeed,” he told host Joy 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.”
The seat is opening up because Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, has announced he won’t seek reelection in 2022. Two other Democrats have announced they’re running for the post — John Fetterman, currently the state’s lieutenant governor, and John McGuigan, a former borough councilor in Norristown, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports. Several other Democrats and Republicans are considering bids.
Kenyatta “will bring diversity to the burgeoning field of contenders, while mirroring some of Fetterman’s strength as a sharp-elbowed social media user and frequent cable TV guest,” the Capital-Star notes. Kenyatta is an outspoken progressive who has advocated for causes such as raising the minimum wage and reforming the criminal justice system.
He won a second term in the Pennsylvania House last year. He was the second member of the LGBTQ+ community elected to the state legislature; the first was Rep. Brian Sims, also a gay Democrat, who this week announced he’ll run to replace Fetterman as lieutenant governor. Both Kenyatta and Sims represent Philadelphia districts.
If Kenyatta becomes a U.S. senator, he’d be the first gay man as well as the first Black member of the LGBTQ+ population to win the office. The two current out U.S. senators, and the only two ever elected, are white women — Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, who is lesbian, and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, who is bisexual; both are Democrats. There are only three Black U.S. senators at present — Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, and Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina — and there have been only 11 in the nation’s history.
Kenyatta was featured as one of the “rising stars” appearing during the virtual keynote address at last year’s Democratic National Convention. Two other gay politicians appeared — Georgia state Rep. Sam Park and Long Beach, Calif., Mayor Robert Garcia. It marked the first time any out LGBTQ+ speakers were featured in a keynote slot at a major party’s national convention. Kenyatta’s fiancé, Matthew Miller, appeared alongside him.