Democrat Fetterman leads Pennsylvania race for U.S. Senate
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the state's U.S. Senate seat, center, poses for a photo with supporters after speaking at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, Pa. When Fetterman was mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania in his early political career he led a fight against the scourge of drugs affecting the town which had been devastated by the closure of steel mills in the Pittsburgh area. The tattoos on his right arm are the dates that young people died of drug overdoses in Braddock. | Gene J. Puskar/AP

ERIE, Pa. – After emerging victorious over a stroke, Pennsylvania’s Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate John Fetterman is on track now to defeat his Republican opponent, Trump-backed Mehmet Oz, next. The state’s lieutenant governor made his return to the campaign trail here August 12, taking the stage here at Erie’s Bayfront Convention Center to the tune of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” His appearance here before a working-class crowd contrasted sharply with recent ads put out by the Oz campaign, showing a completely out-of-touch candidate who couldn’t even get the name straight of the supermarket he was in.

Greeting a crowd of more than 1,300 supporters, Fetterman, now in a double-digit lead over Republican  Oz, talked about recovering from a medical crisis to continue the good fight for the Democratic agenda. He spoke with determination and a sense of humor, remarking, “Are we in Erie, or did I fit 1,400 people in my basement?” – a dig at the “basement tracker” shtick employed by the Oz campaign, used to mock Fetterman’s prior absence from in-person campaigning. “Do you think Dr. Oz could fill a room like this?” he added, to which an audience member responded, “If he paid for it!”

On a serious note, Fetterman declared, “Three months ago my life could have ended. And now we’re in Erie because if you can’t win Erie County, you can’t win Pennsylvania.” He noted that he would continue pursuing his “every county, every vote” approach, adding, “We’re going to take this to every single voter and break the Senate’s tie. You’re going to deliver for us in November, and that will deliver the 51st vote in the Senate.”

If Fetterman and one other Democrat win in the Senate races in November it could be possible to end the filibuster and do things like codifying Roe, guaranteeing a national law to protect same-sex marriage, and passing a strengthened Voting Rights Act to end GOP attacks on the right to vote among many other things, including restoration of many of the features of Build Back Better that were removed from the recent budget compromise.

Fetterman has long been seen as being one of the Democrats’ best chances at flipping a Senate seat held by a Republican, and his comeback “was always going to be Erie,” noted the Pittsburgh Gazette. “For years, Fetterman has seen Erie for the seesaw that it is – the swing county in Pennsylvania that’s correctly guessed the winner of the past two presidential elections and may decide this crucial race for the U.S. Senate. As politicians from both parties have boasted in recent years, as goes Erie, so goes Pennsylvania.”

Fetterman’s agenda has been a progressive one in favor of workers’ rights and union organizing rights, fighting income inequality, and abortion rights – all increasingly critical issues – as well as smaller issues for which many Pennsylvanians are impassioned, such as marijuana legalization. While Oz, by contrast, largely comes off to many as aloof, out-of-state as much literally as ideologically, and not above making jabs to a stroke victim, the sort of behavior that reeks of a particular political allegiance, especially in a nation fighting Trumpian right-wing hate.

On the other hand, Fetterman has a backstory of caring for the working class. When he served as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania in the earlier days of his political career, he led the fight against the epidemic of drug abuse affecting the area, a town that was left reeling from the closure of steel mills in the Pittsburgh area. The tattoos on his arm represent the dates that young people died of drug overdoses in that town.

Fetterman issued a brief summary of his domestic agenda today, and true to form, his style was blunt and direct: “I’m going to Washington as PA’s next U.S. Senator and fighting to make more shit in America, end immoral price gouging, cut taxes for working people, slash health care costs, and ban Congress from trading stocks, I don’t see these as Democratic or Republican solutions. They’re patriotic, pro-America, and just plain common sense.”

It’s that kind of bluntness that helps the progressive Democrat campaign even in the reddest of Pennsylvania districts.

Fetterman’s connections to his home state and his abiding camaraderie with Erie voters rang powerfully at the event here. “He sounded much stronger than he did two or three months ago when the stroke first happened,” said Mary Jackson, an Erie resident and hospital worker. And nothing, she remarked, would convince her to vote for or in any way support Dr. Oz. “He’s not an Erie-ite,” she said. “Therefore, why should I vote for him?”

“He’s a New Jersey resident,” Fetterman has said of Oz. “He doesn’t live here. He’s not about us. He doesn’t care about us.”

“The Republican Party hasn’t increased the minimum wage here in I don’t know how long, said Chuck Kuneman, a 72-year-old retired union steelworker and Erie-ite. Kuneman attended the Bayfront event and said fair pay for workers was the primary reason he supports Fetterman. “Nobody can live on the current minimum wage,” he added. “Republicans want to outlaw abortion, but people can’t afford to have another kid as it is.”

Local leaders highlighted the popularity of Fetterman in Erie, stating that he often campaigned and even vacationed in the city. Jim Wertz, Chair of the Erie Democratic Party said, “I think for a lot of people in this community, they look at somebody like John Fetterman and they go, ‘He understands us. He’s been here.’ They kind of think about him as a member of this community, and Fetterman has spent more time here as an elected official than anyone I can remember since he first ran for Senate in 2016.”

The rally here should prove to be just the beginning of an ongoing and interesting campaign that could result in a sea change in U.S. politics, one that sees the Republican chances to take back Congress dashed in a year that pundits once incorrectly said would see a Republican wave.


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.