- The Washington Times
Monday, April 4, 2022

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the front-runner in the Democratic primary for his state’s open U.S. Senate seat, skipped a debate Sunday night as his rivals launched repeated attacks against him.

Rep. Conor Lamb said Mr. Fetterman‘s absence at the televised debate in Allentown was an insult to voters.

He didn’t respect you enough to show up today,” Mr. Lamb told an audience of about 175 people at Muhlenberg College.

Mr. Fetterman, who is far ahead in polls, has said he will participate in three other televised debates with broader coverage before the May 17 primary.

Mr. Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia criticized Mr. Fetterman for a 2013 incident in which he brandished a shotgun to confront a Black jogger whom he wrongly suspected of a shooting.

“It was wrong when he did that,” Mr. Lamb said at the start of the debate. “And he skipped the debate today because he doesn’t think he has to answer. Given everything that’s going on in this country, that is fatal to his campaign. You deserve a senator that you can trust to show up, and not to act like a loose cannon.”

Mr. Fetterman met with supporters in Chambersburg while his opponents were debating, and he called Mr. Lamb “desperate.”

“Conor is in the middle of a meltdown because he saw his poll numbers at 10%,” Mr. Fetterman told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “So he is resorting to these desperate smears against fellow Democrats that I wouldn’t choose to make, but that’s the campaign he‘s running.”

Mr. Kenyatta said Mr. Fetterman has had nine years to apologize “for taking an illegally loaded shotgun [and] chasing the first person he saw,” but also “to understand why that was so dangerous.” 

Mr. Fetterman told the Inquirer: “It absolutely was a situation that was chaotic and spontaneous. And I certainly would never want to repeat it.”

The Democratic candidates are vying for the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The crowded Republican primary includes former hedge fund executive David McCormick and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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