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Congressman Conor Lamb's Entry Into Senate Race Will Shake Up Political Chess Board

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Congressman Conor Lamb will announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate next week.

That's what sources are telling KDKA political editor Jon Delano, who broke the story on KDKA on Thursday. Sources say Lamb is likely to make his announcement next Friday at the IBEW union hall on the South Side.

It's likely to be a long and expensive political battle.

It's a crowded field, with seven Republicans and nine Democrats already running for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Pat Toomey. Lamb becomes the 10th Democrat, but he's already a top-tier candidate, say political analysts.

"Conor Lamb's biggest strength is that he's won some tough elections," says Pittsburgh Democratic political strategist Mike Mikus.

The 37-year-old Democrat first beat a Republican in a 20-point Trump district in a special congressional election. Then nine months later, he defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus. Last November, he won a close election over GOP challenger Sean Parnell.

Three wins in three years.

"What he needs to sell to voters is that he can win this," says Mikus.

What might hurt Lamb, says Mikus, is that he's a moderate in a party that's moving left.

"Progressives have done pretty well over the last few years so that shows he may have some challenges with the Democratic primary electorate," said Mikus.

Another challenge is a local contender, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Fetterman is a fellow western Pennsylvanian who has already amassed $3.1 million in the bank compared to Lamb's $1.8 million.

And then there's Philadelphia.

"The rules have changed in the Democratic Primary," says Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia political analyst. "The power has shifted to the southeastern part of the state – Philadelphia and the suburbs."

Just ask Conor Lamb's uncle, Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb, who lost a statewide Democratic primary for auditor general to a Philadelphian.

So far, Philadelphia has two better-known local candidates in Montgomery County: Commissioner Val Arkoosh and Philadelphia state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

"Commissioner Val Arkoosh is the only candidate from the southeastern suburbs at this point, major candidate, and also at this point, the only woman in the field," says Ceisler.

Ceisler thinks Arkoosh can win the Philadelphia suburbs while Kenyatta could lead in the city, putting Fetterman and Lamb at a disadvantage in a region with far more Democrats than the Pittsburgh area.

Of course, it's way too early to predict anything. This complicated game of political chess is only just beginning.

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