The Fetterman Files: Pennsylvania Democrat Brings Baggage To Senate Race
Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman is campaigning on behalf of the Democratic Party for a seat in the United States Senate against Republican rival Dr. Mehmet Oz.

A graduate of Albright College and Harvard University, Fetterman began his career working for government public service agency AmeriCorps before moving to Braddock, Pennsylvania, which maintains a population of less than 2,000 people. Fetterman served as the mayor of the former steel town from 2006 to 2019 before beginning his tenure in Harrisburg.

The controversial politician — who wears hoodies and basketball shorts while in public and towers at six feet, eight inches — couples his unorthodox appearance with equally unorthodox policies. Fetterman has repeatedly nodded to drug decriminalization and monitored injection sites, as well as defended Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who is currently under investigation from Republican and Democratic members of the Pennsylvania House for allegedly neglecting to enforce the city’s laws.

In contrast to Oz’s success in the private sector, Fetterman — who received a salary of $1,800 during his tenure as mayor of Braddock — received five-figure annual allowances from his parents. Meanwhile, his sister allowed him to rent an apartment virtually for free.

Fetterman provoked ire in 2013 by responding to what he believed was gunfire by pulling a firearm on an African American and detaining him until police arrived — an incident that has generated unease among black Democratic voters.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Fetterman also suffered a stroke days ahead of the 2022 primary elections. During the few public appearances he has made during the general election contest, he has slurred, repeated himself, and lost his train of thought. Much of his campaign has centered upon online trolling of Dr. Oz over his links to New Jersey and ownership of multiple properties.

Questions about Fetterman’s mental fitness have mounted as the candidate repeatedly shirks an invitation to debate Oz. Though he told Politico that he would eventually mount the debate stage, Fetterman did not specify details — although he told the outlet that the event will occur “sometime in the middle to end of October” on a “major television station” in Pennsylvania. He added that his campaign is considering the use of a closed captioning monitor so that he does not miss details due to auditory processing issues stemming from his stroke.

Oz responded by demanding that Fetterman debate him in September before mail-in and absentee ballots are sent to Pennsylvanians.

John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate, center, and his wife Gisele Fetterman, center left, walk with the United Steelworkers District 10 union during a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Pennsylvania is holding a number of high-profile election contests, including the open Senate seat race that is pitting Fetterman against Republican Mehmet Oz.

Justin Merriman / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fetterman had told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in July that he felt “really good” and has no “physical limits.” Yet the paper’s editorial board questioned the candidate’s fitness in an opinion piece and suggested that he debate his rival. “Fetterman still speaks haltingly and relies on closed captioning to fully understand his conversation partners,” the editors said.

Fetterman is currently leading Oz — who garnered controversy of his own during the Republican primary due to past support of abortion and gun control — in the polls. As of August, Fetterman led Oz by 48.4% to 43.5%, according to a survey conducted by the Trafalgar Group.

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