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Inside The Blighted Rust Belt Town Where John Fetterman Was Mayor

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It is hard to imagine that Braddock, Pennsylvania, would produce one of the nation’s most high-profile and controversial Senate candidates.

Dotted by shuttered buildings connected via pothole-filled roads, Braddock — which was once the thriving home of a steel mill constructed by Andrew Carnegie — is today the residence of roughly 1,700 people. A slim 11% have a bachelor’s degree, only 34% have a job, and median household income is $23,000.

Abandoned buildings in Braddock, Pennsylvania (Images via The Daily Wire)

It was in this crucible that the political career of John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, was forged. After growing up in York, Pennsylvania — located in the thriving south-central region of the commonwealth — and earning a master’s degree from Harvard University, Fetterman was sent by government public service agency AmeriCorps to Braddock in 2004 with a mission of starting a youth art program. Two years later, he narrowly became the city’s mayor and remained in his post until 2019.

Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, spent much of that time encouraging nonprofits to enter Braddock. Free Store 15104, which the second lady of Pennsylvania constructed out of shipping containers to redistribute donated goods to needy residents, is among a handful of nonprofits sporting a bright blue-and-pink “Protect Trans Kids” sign — an unexpected and jarring sight in the otherwise dreary rust belt city.

Nonprofits in Braddock, Pennsylvania, featuring “Protect Trans Kids” signs (Images via The Daily Wire)

The six-foot-eight, tattoo-covered politician with a penchant for wearing hoodies and basketball shorts in public survived over a decade because of five-figure contributions from his family, as his position only comes with a salary of $1,800 — roughly $1 for each resident. “Their generosity supports our family while serving as the mayor of Braddock,” Fetterman said on a tardy financial filing in 2015, which reported $54,000 in gifts from his parents.

The candidate owns a handful of empty lots around the $70,000 residency that his sister allowed him to purchase for $1, as well as a small home in North Braddock — which he neglected to report on more recent financial disclosures.

John Fetterman’s property on 505 Stokes Avenue (Image via The Daily Wire)

Fetterman has garnered national media attention for his controversial policy positions, which include repeated nods toward drug decriminalization and monitored injection sites. Yet the candidate is highly popular among Braddock residents interviewed by The Daily Wire in the city’s decrepit Family Dollar — one of the few retail establishments in the area, which residents clad in black-and-gold Steelers gear visit to buy essentials.

Lisa, who has lived in Braddock for most of her life, explained that Fetterman “did all he could do” with his power as a small town mayor. “Oh yeah. Of course. We can’t vote for Oz. He doesn’t even live in Pennsylvania, so why would we vote for him?”

Criminal justice reform and abortion are salient issues for Lisa, who plans to vote for Fetterman in November. “We need progression, and I think he does represent progression.”

Abandoned buildings in Braddock, Pennsylvania (Images via The Daily Wire)

Tim, another lifelong resident of Braddock, also approved of Fetterman’s work. “He did a great job… he cleaned up all these empty lots, tore down these empty businesses.”

When the University of Pittsburgh Medical System shuttered its hospital in Braddock, which was formerly the town’s largest employer, Tim explained that no other official besides Fetterman tried to prevent the closure. “He was stuck between a rock and a hard place,” he added. “All the other politicians, all our other liberal politicians, folded like a cheap suit.”

Tim also cited funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which President Joe Biden signed last year, as a positive development for the community. A third resident, who has lived in Braddock for the past five years, likewise remarked that Fetterman “had a good impact” and noted that the infrastructure legislation will help with “fixing some of the roads.”

“We’ll be good with him in office,” he added.

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