Three of Pennsylvania’s younger Democratic politicians got a chance to introduce themselves to a national audience — and tip their hats firmly in favor of Joe Biden’s presidential bid — in a Tuesday night Democratic National Convention speech that could only happen virtually.
The second night of the virtual DNC featured a pre-recorded keynote speech split 17 ways, shared among an assortment of politicians from around the country who the convention dubbed “rising stars.” They included three from Pennsylvania: U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle from Philadelphia, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb from near Pittsburgh, and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania had the most speakers of any state, and the choice of Kenyatta, Lamb and Boyle was a clear gesture at some of the commonwealth’s political range.
Boyle and Kenyatta are both from Philadelphia, and Kenyatta is the first openly gay Black man to serve in the state legislature. Lamb, meanwhile, is a moderate Marine veteran from a Trump-leaning district in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
Boyle, 43, grew up in Olney. His mother worked as a crossing guard and his father, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland, was a janitor.
In his portion of the shared speech — delivered from his kitchen table — Boyle stressed his working-class roots. And he pitched a vision of a Biden administration that would bring stability and predictability.
“You deserve health care you can afford, a job that pays you fairly,” he said. “You deserve child care and paid sick leave while you work. And when you pay into Social Security and Medicare, you deserve to know it’ll be there when you retire.”
Kenyatta also pitched Biden as an ally for people working hard to get by. Speaking from his living room couch — where he was joined briefly by his fiancé — the 30-year-old North Philadelphia native noted that like many people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has lived “the insecurity and the indignity of an eviction notice.”
Kenyatta joined the legislature in 2018, as a wave of young progressives — several of whom were endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America — were sweeping into office.
When the primary election rolled around, many of those young politicians supported Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. But Kenyatta was one of the few in his age cohort who vocally supported Biden from the start.
He said Biden’s relatively early support for legalizing same-sex marriage was one of the reasons.
“When I wanted to marry the man I loved, Joe Biden was the first national figure to support me and my family,” he said in the DNC speech.
Tonight I spoke about essential workers & the need for PPE, the small businesses that make our neighborhoods what they are, & about the equality all our families deserve. Best of all I got to do part of it w/ @drmattjmiller
— Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta 🧼👏🏽🥁 (@malcolmkenyatta) August 19, 2020
Lamb gave his portion of the speech outside, with a view of Pittsburgh behind him.
Two years ago, the now 36-year-old won a surprise special election victory against a Trump-endorsed candidate in a district that the president had won by about 20 points in 2016. Then, after Pennsylvania’s congressional districts were redrawn, Lamb won again against a different, incumbent Republican in the general election.
He was a middle-of-the-road candidate, and he’s been a similarly moderate congressman.
In his endorsement of Biden, he noted his military service — “when you’re in the trenches, you want Joe Biden right there next to you” — and tried to appeal to voters looking for work.
“When our economy was on the brink, Joe led the recovery effort that created millions of jobs, including here in Western Pennsylvania,” he said, referencing Biden’s role in the rollout of 2009 stimulus spending, which included coordination with states and tracking how money was being spent.
Come November, Pennsylvania will be one of the states that plays the largest role in determining who becomes president.
The commonwealth will likely be back in the spotlight later this week. On Thursday, President Donald Trump is holding an event near Scranton, Biden’s childhood home, on the same day Biden is slated to accept the presidential nomination.
That nomination was cast Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. He did it standing outside the house where Biden spent part of his childhood, a “Scranton loves Joe” sign in the background.
Which way will Pa. vote?