John Karl Fetterman (born August 15, 1969) is an American politician who has served as the 34th lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania since 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as mayor of Braddock from 2006 to 2019.[1] Fetterman is the Democratic nominee for the 2022 United States Senate election in Pennsylvania.

Beginning his professional career in the insurance industry, Fetterman studied finance at Albright College and earned an MBA from the University of Connecticut. Following the death of a close friend, he joined AmeriCorps and earned an MPP from Harvard. Fetterman’s service with AmeriCorps led him to Braddock, where he moved in 2004 and was elected mayor the following year. As mayor of Braddock, Fetterman sought to revitalize the former steel town through art and youth programs.

Fetterman ran for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat in 2016, where he finished third in the Democratic primary. He ran for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania in 2018, defeating a field of candidates that included incumbent Mike Stack in the Democratic primary and winning the election with incumbent Governor Tom Wolf.[2] During his tenure, Fetterman received national attention for his efforts to legalize cannabis statewide and pushing back on President Donald Trump‘s false claims of election fraud in Pennsylvania.

In 2021, Fetterman announced his candidacy in Pennsylvania’s 2022 Senate election. He won the Democratic nomination with 59% of the vote and will face Republican Mehmet Oz in the general election. Generally described as a progressive, Fetterman advocates for health care as a right, criminal justice reform, strengthening the U.S.–Israel relationship, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and legalizing marijuana.

Early life and education

Fetterman was born in 1969 at Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pennsylvania, to Karl and Susan Fetterman.[3] Fetterman’s parents were married and both 19 years old at the time of his birth.[4] They eventually moved to York, Pennsylvania, where Fetterman grew up and his father became a partner at an insurance firm.[5][6][7] Fetterman’s father achieved success in the insurance industry and the family became wealthy.[8] Fetterman grew up in an affluent suburb of York and both of his parents were conservative Republicans.[5][9]

Fetterman has described his upbringing as “privileged”, saying he “sleepwalked” through his young adulthood, playing four years of football in college and intending to eventually take over as owner of his father’s business.[9] In 1991, Fetterman graduated from Albright College, also his father’s alma mater, with a bachelor’s degree in finance, after which he received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Connecticut in 1993.[10][11]

While Fetterman was studying at UConn, his best friend died in a car accident, which had a formative effect on Fetterman’s life and career path.[12] Following his friend’s death, Fetterman joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, pairing with an eight-year-old boy in New Haven, Connecticut, whose father had died from AIDS and whose mother was slowly dying from the disease.[13] During his time as a Big Brother, Fetterman says he became “preoccupied with the concept of the random lottery of birth”, and promised the boy’s mother he would continue to look out for her son after she was gone.[14] In 1995, Fetterman joined the recently founded AmeriCorps, and was sent to teach Pittsburgh students pursuing their GEDs.[15] For two years, Fetterman worked in Pittsburgh as a risk-management underwriter for Chubb.[16] He later attended Harvard University‘s Kennedy School of Government, from which he graduated in 1999 with a Master of Public Policy degree.[17]

Mayor of Braddock (2006–2019)

Fetterman in 2009

Fetterman, who began his career working at an insurance firm, came to Braddock in 2001 to serve with AmeriCorps, helping local youth to earn their GED. He later moved to Braddock in 2004.[5][18]

Braddock, a former industrial town, known for being the site of Andrew Carnegie‘s first steel mill, was hit hard by the decline of the U.S. steel industry.[8] The town had lost 90% of its population since its peak in the 1920s, and was declared a financially distressed municipality in 1988; it has no supermarkets, gas stations or ATMs.[8] Fetterman was attracted to Braddock by what he called the town’s “malignant beauty.”

Fetterman served as the part-time mayor of Braddock, and the full-time director of the city’s youth program.[19] He also founded a nonprofit organization called Braddock Redux, which was used by Fetterman to acquire and save properties in Braddock.[20]

Fetterman’s father, a successful businessman, helped subsidize Fetterman financially because the position of mayor paid only $150 per month.[5] He received payments of $54,000 from his father in 2015.[16] Fetterman has several tattoos related to the Braddock community. On his left arm are the numbers 15104 – Braddock’s ZIP Code, and on the right, the dates of nine murders that occurred in the town while he was mayor.[21]

Elections

Fetterman ran for mayor against the incumbent, Pauline Abdullah, in 2005. With backing from the town’s young residents, he won the Democratic primary by a single vote.[22][5] Fetterman won the general election;[23] he did not face a Republican opponent.[22]

In the 2009 Democratic primary for mayor of Braddock, Fetterman faced Jayme Cox.[24][25] During the 2009 campaign, Cox attacked Fetterman for failing to build a consensus with the town council.[24] Additionally, Cox criticized Fetterman for abuse of power after Fetterman released non-public records that showed Cox was arrested in 2004.[24] Fetterman defeated Cox in the primary by a vote of 294 to 103.[24] Fetterman handily won the Democratic primaries in 2013 and 2017, and was unopposed in the general election.[26]

Tenure

First term

Following his election, one of Fetterman’s first acts was to set up a website for Braddock, which highlighted the town’s mostly neglected and destroyed buildings.[27] As mayor, Fetterman initiated youth and art programs and worked to develop the town’s abandoned buildings and improve the poor economy. With family money, Fetterman purchased the town’s First Presbyterian Church, prior to demolition, for $50,000 and lived in the basement for several months.[28] The church was later turned into the town’s community center.[27] He later purchased an adjacent warehouse for $2,000, placed two shipping containers on the roof for extra living space and moved in.[19] Other programs included converting vacant lots into parks and gardens, building the town’s first public basketball court, and establishing a two-acre organic urban farm, worked by teenagers of the Braddock Youth Project.[29][30] In order to help fund programs, Fetterman established relationships with local non-profit organizations, Allegheny County‘s economic development program, and then-county executive Dan Onorato.[30] For example, Fetterman helped secure a $400,000 grant from the Heinz Foundation towards the building of a green roof, which provided 100 summer construction jobs for local youth.[31]

Fetterman pitched Braddock to those around the country as a place to move due to the town’s low real estate prices.[27] The town’s renaissance has attracted individuals from cities such as Chicago and Portland, Oregon, drawn by the potential for development and growth.[27] Inspired by Fetterman’s call, a group of Brooklyn residents moved to Braddock and transformed an abandoned church into an art center.[8] However, the re-development of Braddock raised concerns about gentrification.[9][29] Despite Fetterman trying to attract new residents to Braddock, the population has continued to hover around 2,000 people and despite property being cheap, many of the homes are condemned or are uninhabitable.[32][33]

Typically, the mayor of Braddock holds administrative power over the Braddock Police Department.[31] However, during Fetterman’s first term, he handed over those powers to the Braddock Police Chief, Frank DeBartolo, believing he could handle administrative duties more efficiently.[31] Fetterman aimed to improve the relationship between Braddock’s residents and the police by serving as a mediator during disputes.[31] During Fetterman’s tenure as mayor, the homicide rate in Braddock fell substantially and for a five-year period, there were no gun-related murders in Braddock.[5]

In 2006, Fetterman opposed the expansion of Mon-Fayette Expressway, a partially-completed, four-lane highway that connects Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.[29] He argued that the planned expansion of the expressway would cut straight through Braddock and destroy the town.[29]

While mayor, Fetterman had a contentious relationship with the town council.[5] Some councilpersons viewed him with suspicion—seeing a white man serving as mayor of a majority-black town who pitched himself as the town’s savior.[5] Fetterman’s tense relations with the town council can also be attributed to the fact that he did not attend many council meetings.[5] In 2009, members of the town council attempted to have Fetterman removed from a town council meeting and arrested after he criticized a political opponent while delivering his mayoral report.[31] That same year, council president Jesse Brown ordered Braddock’s code enforcement officer to cite Fetterman for an occupancy permit violation for a building owned by Fetterman’s non-profit. A judge later dismissed the complaint.[34] To avoid the town council’s gridlock, Fetterman used his non-profit to accomplish many of his ideas for Braddock, but that also resulted in less citizen input into the projects.[33]

Second term

In November 2010, Fetterman was arrested and immediately released after refusing to leave the property of the U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh. Fetterman was protesting the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center controversial closure of Braddock Hospital, but was met with objections from some in the community for not being more vocal in his opposition earlier.[35][36] The Braddock Hospital, which employed 600 people, was Braddock’s largest employer and its closure left the town without any healthcare provider,[8] although, an urgent-care unit eventually opened in Braddock.

Also in November 2010, Fetterman took a leading role in trying to close down Club 804, a nightclub which he described as a public nuisance to Braddock, following the club being the site of a shooting.[37] During his feud with Club 804, Fetterman changed the lettering on the club’s signage from “Closed for renovations – will reopen soon” to “We will not be reopening soon.”[37] The club’s owner criticized Fetterman saying “he had no right to touch our property”.[37] Two years later, the club rebranded itself as “Club Elegance” and Fetterman unsuccessfully sought to have the club shut down for violating Braddock’s ordinance, which bans clubs with strippers from operating “within 300 feet of the property line of any school, church, day care center or community center”.[38]

Starting in 2013, Fetterman began defying a 1996 Pennsylvania law that banned same-sex marriage and began marrying LGBT couples inside of his home.[39]

In 2013, Fetterman worked with celebrity chef Kevin Sousa to establish a restaurant in Braddock, which is something the town had lacked.[40] Fetterman bought a 3,000 square-foot building that was home to a former car dealership with the intention that it would be the site of the new restaurant, named “Superior Motors”.[40] Funds to establish the restaurant were collected via Kickstarter.[40] Fetterman stated that Superior Motors would provide jobs for Braddock residents, serve as an economic accelerant for the community and “help people reimagine a space, a street, and a neighborhood”.[40] The restaurant opened in 2017, but closed in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[41] Mayor Chardaé Jones, Fetterman’s successor, criticized the restaurant for closing after only a few years and having had received a Paycheck Protection Program loan for $190,000 in 2020.[41]

Shotgun incident

Fetterman was criticized for an incident in North Braddock in January 2013 when he heard a sound he thought was gunfire, and followed an unarmed jogger, whom Fetterman detained with a shotgun.[42] The jogger, Chris Miyares, a black American, said that what Fetterman thought were gunshots were actually kids shooting bottle rockets. Fetterman said no debris had been found.[43] Miyares claimed that Fetterman pointed the shotgun at his chest while he loaded the gun and then aimed the gun at his face.[42] Fetterman denies that he pointed the gun at Miyares and says he only pointed the gun in a way to show that he was armed, but did not point the gun at Miyares, and that he “didn’t even have a round chambered or the safety off.”[42] Fetterman said he believed he “did the right thing” and has not apologized.[44][42] No charges were brought against either in connection with the incident,[43] and Miyares never filed a formal complaint.[42]

The incident gained new attention during Fetterman’s Senate bid, with critics alleging a racial element to the incident.[43][45][44] Fetterman’s campaign denied allegations of racism, claiming that Miyares was wearing a black sweatsuit and mask, so Fetterman couldn’t have identified his race or gender.[43][45] Fetterman also added that Miyares was running in the direction of a school, and that he made the decision to approach him with the firearm due to the event’s proximity in time to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.[43]

In 2021, Miyares wrote that Fetterman had “lied about everything” that happened during the incident, but had “done far more good than that one bad act” and, “should not be defined by it”, and hoped he would win the Senate race.[46] Fetterman’s political opponents have questioned Miyares’ statement forgiving Fetterman.[44]

Media coverage and criticism

Fetterman’s efforts to create youth-oriented programs, revitalize his town, and attract artists and other “creatives” to his community were featured in The New York Times.[33] A 2009 article in The Guardian called him “America’s coolest mayor”.[47]

Fetterman was the guest on the Colbert Report on February 25, 2009, discussing the economic difficulties his town faced due to a decreasing population, plummeting real estate values, and bankruptcy. He also questioned why funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 could not be used to support projects such as those in Braddock.[27] He appeared again on August 16, 2010, discussing what he had been doing and the town’s partnership with Levi Strauss.

In 2010, Levi Strauss & Company donated money towards Braddock’s revitalization and featured the town in an advertising campaign and documentary produced by the Sundance Channel.[48][49]

On May 7, 2012, Fetterman was featured on A Day in the Life where he discusses his responsibilities and desires for Braddock, as well as his personal history and views.[50]

Fetterman was a guest on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on January 14, 2016, to discuss his support for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary[51] and again on July 19, 2016, discussing the state of the 2016 election and Donald Trump.[52]

During Fetterman’s time as mayor in 2009, some Braddock residents, including the members of the town council, criticized Fetterman for his media appearances which emphasize the town’s negative aspects.[31] Jesse Brown, Braddock’s former town council president, said Fetterman “needs to tone down his rhetoric about the community and the bad shape the community is in and the devastation of the housing… If he feels that the community is bankrupt, then he needs to go somewhere where he’d like it.”[31] Tony Buba, a Braddock-based filmmaker, said “[Fetterman is] this big presence, and everyone thinks he’s John Wayne, [but it is] not that simple.”[32] Buba pointed out that under Fetterman, Braddock’s population has stagnated and while the average income has grown, it is still only $25,000 per household.[32]

2016 U.S. Senate campaign

Fetterman campaigning in Pittsburgh

On September 14, 2015, Fetterman announced that he would run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Toomey in the 2016 election.[53] His campaign was considered a longshot against two better-known candidates, Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Senate.[54] Fetterman was endorsed by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley,[55] former Pennsylvania Treasurer Barbara Hafer,[56] and the PennLive Editorial Board.[57]

Fetterman’s campaign focused on progressive values and building support through grassroots movement, drawing comparisons to Bernie Sanders.[58] Fetterman was the only statewide Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania to endorse Sanders.[59] Though lacking statewide name recognition, having low campaign funds, and polling as low as 4% a week before the primary,[60] Fetterman was able to garner 20% of the primary vote. Katie McGinty, who spent $4,312,688 on the primary and who was endorsed by Barack Obama and many U.S. senators, finished ahead of former congressman and admiral Joe Sestak, who raised $5,064,849, with Fetterman raising $798,981 and finishing third.[61][62] After the primary, Fetterman campaigned on behalf of McGinty,[63] although Toomey ultimately defeated her, winning reelection.

Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania (2019–present)

Election

On November 14, 2017, Fetterman announced that he would run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, challenging, among others, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack.[64] Stack was seen as a vulnerable incumbent after the Pennsylvania Inspector General launched an investigation into Stack regarding allegations that he mistreated his staff and Pennsylvania state troopers.[65] Fetterman was endorsed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and former Pennsylvania Governor and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell.[32][64][66]

On May 15, Fetterman won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor with 38% of the vote.[67] Fetterman was a part of the Democratic ticket along with incumbent Governor Tom Wolf. On November 6, 2018, Wolf and Fetterman defeated the Republican ticket of Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos in the general election.[68][69]

Tenure

Fetterman as lieutenant governor in 2022

Fetterman was sworn into office as the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania on January 15, 2019, replacing Mike Stack.[70] One of Fetterman’s first tasks from Governor Tom Wolf was to look into legalizing marijuana statewide.[70] Fetterman went on a statewide tour, visiting all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and spoke to residents about marijuana legalization.[71] After completing his tour, he published a report on his findings.

In a show of support for marijuana legalization and the LGBTQ+ community, Fetterman hung the pride flag and a flag with a marijuana leaf from his office’s balcony, which overlooks the state capitol.[72] However, part of an omnibus bill, signed into law by Governor Wolf, banned unauthorized flags on Capitol property and state employees removed the flags.[72] However, Fetterman has continued to defy the law and fly the flags outside of his office.[72]

Board of Pardons

The role of lieutenant governor has very little actual power, but does oversee the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. In this position, Fetterman worked to increase the amount of commutations and pardons for those serving jail time in Pennsylvania.[73] The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Fetterman ran the Board of Pardons “with the heart of an activist and, at times, the force of a bully”.[73] The Inquirer also reported that Fetterman threatened to run against Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who at the time was planning a run for governor, unless Shapiro supported more pardons.[73]

Donald Trump

In November 2020, Fetterman received national press coverage for saying Donald Trump was “no different than any other random internet troll”[74] and that he “can sue a ham sandwich” in response to Trump threatening to file lawsuits in Pennsylvania alleging voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.[75]

The 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania was won by Joe Biden, who finished more than 81,000 votes ahead of Trump.[76] Trump’s claims of voter fraud led to a challenge of the results and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a suit to overturn the results in Pennsylvania, among other states.[77] Paxton’s case was joined by 18 other Republican Attorneys General from other states.[77] Supporting that effort, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick offered a reward of $1,000,000 to anyone who could prove a case of fraud in the affected states. Fetterman responded by certifying that Pennsylvania had discovered three cases of voter fraud: two men had cast ballots as their dead mothers (both for Trump) and another had voted on behalf of his son as well as himself (also for Trump). Fetterman said that his Texas counterpart needed to pay up, a million for each of these cases. He said he was proud to announce, that Trump “got 100% of the dead mother vote”, in Pennsylvania.[78] Fetterman’s lampooning of the alleged voting fraud received nationwide publicity.[78][79]

2022 U.S. Senate campaign

In January 2021, Fetterman announced he was launching an exploratory committee for the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Pennsylvania.[80][81] On February 4, 2021, Fetterman filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission declaring his intention to run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey.[82][83] On February 8, 2021, he officially entered the U.S. Senate race.[84]

Democratic primary

Fetterman’s main opponent in the Democratic primary for Senate was incumbent U.S. Representative Conor Lamb.[85] A political action committee supporting Lamb ran ads attacking Fetterman for being “a self-described democratic socialist…”[85] The ad cited a National Public Radio article, which described Fetterman as a socialist, but The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that “Fetterman has never actually described himself that way.”[85] Both Lamb and another candidate, Malcolm Kenyatta, criticized Fetterman for the incident where he pulled a loaded shotgun on a black jogger whom he believed had fired a gun.[85]

Despite leading in many polls, Fetterman received few endorsements in the Democratic primary. State Representative John I. Kane noted that the lack of endorsements is part of Fetterman’s “lone wolf personality”. Darisha Parker, a state representative from Philadelphia, argued that Fetterman’s lack of endorsements is due to the fact “[Fetterman has] never come and introduced himself to me or any of my colleagues. So if a lieutenant governor doesn’t take the time to get to talk to somebody like me, then why would we want to send somebody like him to D.C.?”[86]

Fetterman won the Democratic primary with 58.7% of the vote, defeating his closest rival, Lamb, by 32.4% of the vote. Fetterman won every county, including Philadelphia County, but struggled to win much of the city’s black vote—capturing just 18% of the vote in the city’s majority black precincts.[87][88] Fetterman’s wife Gisele gave a victory speech on her husband’s behalf, as he was hospitalized after suffering a stroke.

On the day of the primary election, Fetterman’s campaign said he was undergoing surgery to install a pacemaker with a defibrillator in order to address atrial fibrillation. Several weeks later, Fetterman’s campaign said that the defibrillator had in fact been installed to treat cardiomyopathy, first diagnosed in 2017.

General election

In the general election, Fetterman is facing off against Republican nominee, Mehmet Oz, a celebrity doctor. According to The Philadelphia Citizens, Fetterman has employed a social media campaign strategy consisting of shitposting and internet memes.[89] Oz’s New Jersey residency, net worth, and connections to Donald Trump have been the focus of many of the memes.[90] Criticizing Oz’s previous residency in New Jersey has become a particular hallmark of Fetterman’s campaign while at the same time promoting his own Pennsylvania roots, seeking to label Oz as a carpetbagger. Efforts by the campaign to highlight Oz’s New Jersey ties have included enlisting New Jersey celebrities Snooki and Steven Van Zandt to record video messages aimed at Oz,[91][92] and having a plane banner fly over the Jersey Shore reading “Hey Dr. Oz: Welcome home to N.J.! ❤️ John.”[93]

At an August 2022 rally in Erie, Fetterman appeared in public for the first time since recovering from his pre-primary election stroke; he “appeared physically healthy and mostly talked without any issues. At times, however, his speech was somewhat halted”, according to Politico.[91]

In September, Oz called on Fetterman to participate in a debate against him before early voting begins in Pennsylvania on September 19.[94] Fetterman agreed to debate Oz in “the middle to end of October”, but would not commit to an exact date or to a debate in September.[95] Fetterman’s approach to the debate was criticized by Oz, Senator Pat Toomey,[96] and numerous media sources, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,[97] Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,[98] The Philadelphia Inquirer,[99] The Wall Street Journal,[100] and The Washington Post.[101] The Washington Post wrote that it “raised questions about whether [Fetterman], still recovering from a serious stroke, is fit to serve in the Senate.”[102] Oz and Fetterman have since agreed to a single debate, which will be held on October 25.[103]

Political positions

Fetterman delivering his inaugural address as lieutenant governor in 2019

Fetterman is often described as a social and fiscal progressive, including by himself.[5][104] When running for Senate in 2022, Fetterman said that he is not a progressive and is “just a Democrat”, explaining that many parts of his platform that were once considered progressive are now mainstream beliefs of the party.[105] In 2022, The New York Times characterized Fetterman as “left-leaning”.[106]

Abortion rights

At a debate, Fetterman said regarding abortion: “That is between a woman and her physician”. To the question if any exceptions exist, he said: “It’s certainly not between me or any politician. We settled this decades ago, and the fact that these states are trying to repeal it… we have to push back on that.” His campaign stated: “Let’s be clear: The right to an abortion is sacred. Democrats have to act quickly and get rid of the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act + finally codify Roe into law. We cannot afford to wait.”[107][non-primary source needed]

Congressional stock ownership

Fetterman supports barring members of Congress and their immediate families from trading or holding stocks.[108]

Criminal justice reform

Prison reform is one of Fetterman’s signature issues, advocating for more rehabilitation action as well as clemency for model prisoners. A part of his role as lieutenant governor, he serves as the chair of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, which processes clemency requests and forwards them to the governor. Fetterman urged the board to process requests more quickly.[109]

Fetterman is in favor of abolishing capital punishment in Pennsylvania, stating that he “wholly support[s] Governor Tom Wolf’s moratorium on the death penalty”. He has called the death penalty “inhumane, antiquated, expensive, and [a] flawed system of punishment”.[110]

Fetterman supports the elimination of life in prison for second degree murder in Pennsylvania, also known as “felony” murder, and has called life sentences for second degree murder a “tragedy”.[111][112][113]

Environmental issues

Previously, Fetterman opposed fracking, calling the practice “an environmental abomination”.[114] However, he has since shifted his stance on the issue, saying that he supports permitting fracking, although he advocates for stricter environmental regulations.[109] Fetterman says there needs to be a balance between decarbonization efforts and creating jobs in the fossil fuel industry. While running for lieutenant governor, Fetterman voiced his support for establishing two new fracking wells.[32] In 2021, Fetterman said that he supports moving towards a “de facto moratorium [on fracking] because the transition is going to be toward green and renewable energy”.[115] In February 2021, he told MSNBC, “I’m embracing what the green ideal considers a priority. Like, you know, the Green New Deal isn’t a specific piece of legislation. What I am in support of is acknowledging that the climate crisis is absolutely real.”[116]

Filibuster

Fetterman supports ending the filibuster in the United States Senate.[117] He has also said that Democrats need to be more ruthless, like Republicans, in order to pass legislative priorities.[118]

Foreign policy

In 2015, The Patriot-News described Fetterman as a “skeptic of free trade”, given his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a non-interventionist. Fetterman has said that the United States should not “be considered the world’s police officers”.[9]

Gun policy

Fetterman supports greater restrictions on gun purchases.[119]

Healthcare

Fetterman has described himself as a supporter of Medicare for All, saying that healthcare is a “fundamental human need and right”.[104] Fetterman’s website states that “Healthcare is a fundamental human right,”[120] and that he would “support whatever path” is necessary to expand healthcare accessibility including the expansion of Obamacare.[121] In debate he still says he will vote yes for Medicare for All.[122]

Israel

Fetterman is a strong supporter of Israel–United States relations and said if he is elected as a U.S. senator, he will “lean in” on the “relationship between the United States and Israel”. He said that the U.S.–Israel relationship “is a special one that needs to be safeguarded, protected, supported and nurtured through legislation and all available diplomatic efforts in the region”. He supports United States foreign aid to Israel, including Iron Dome funding. Fetterman criticized Congressional Democrats who voted against Iron Dome funding, calling them “fringe” and “extreme”. Fetterman has said he supports the right of Israel to defend itself and is “passionate” in his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He supported a law signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf that barred Pennsylvania from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel. He supports a two-state solution and the expansion of the Abraham Accords, the Arab-Israeli agreements brokered under the Trump administration.[123]

Marijuana

Fetterman is a proponent of legalizing marijuana, calling the issue a “political bazooka” and that leaving the issue alone is giving an opportunity for another party to gain political support for a pro–marijuana legalization agenda. He argued that if conservative South Dakota voters were willing to approve a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana, Pennsylvania should legalize it too.[124] He also supports expunging criminal convictions related to marijuana.[125]

Minimum wage

Fetterman supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.[104]

Policing

Fetterman has described himself as “pro-policing”, including pro-community policing. He opposes defunding the police, calling the movement “absurd”,[114] but supports the Black Lives Matter movement.[126][127] After Derek Chauvin, a police officer who murdered an unarmed black man, George Floyd, was convicted of second-degree murder, Fetterman tweeted his support for the verdict, stating that Chauvin was “clearly guilty.”[128]

As lieutenant governor, Fetterman supported legislation that would allow the police to use deadly force only in situations where officers or others nearby face imminent threat of death or serious injury.[129]

Taxation

Fetterman supports implementing a wealth tax in the United States.[130] He has stated “you know it when you see it…” and has said those “who have yachts” could be used as a potential benchmark.[131]

Unions

Fetterman is a supporter of labor unions, saying “The union way of life is sacred”.[132]

Personal life

Fetterman is married to Gisele Barreto Fetterman (née Almeida), a Brazilian-American activist. Almeida, who was once an undocumented immigrant and a resident of Newark, New Jersey, heard about Fetterman’s work as mayor of Braddock and wrote him a letter in 2007.[32] Fetterman invited Almeida to visit Braddock and a year later they were married.[32] The couple has three children and live in a converted car dealership with their rescue dogs, Levi and Artie. The family has chosen to not live in State House, the official residence for Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor.[133]

In autumn 2020, Gisele Fetterman shared a photo of the family’s home while John was being interviewed. Levi’s humorous facial expression resulted in the photograph going viral. The next day, an unconnected fan of Levi created a Twitter account in his name, the person subsequently made friends with Gisele Fetterman but remains anonymous.[134] Levi and Artie have their own Twitter account with more than 25,000 followers.[135] Mixed-breed Levi[136] was also featured in the CW’s television special “Dogs of the Year 2021”.[137] In July 2021, the York Daily Record reported that Levi was an advocate for the increase of the state license fee for dog owners to fund the Pennsylvania bureau tasked with canine law enforcement, such as dealing with dangerous dogs and exposing puppy mills.[138]

Fetterman is known for his casual style of dress. He is often seen wearing a sweatshirt and shorts.[5] He owns only one suit that he is required to wear when presiding over the Pennsylvania Senate, which has a dress code.[5]

In 2008, Allegheny County sued both Fetterman and his non-profit Braddock Redux for unpaid taxes. A tax lien was placed against Fetterman and his non-profit for $25,000. In 2012, Fetterman paid off the unpaid taxes.[139]

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Fetterman has a net worth between $717,000 and $1.58 million.[16]

Health

In 2017, Fetterman’s feet suddenly began to swell and he went to the hospital for testing.[140] At that time, he was diagnosed by cardiologist Ramesh Chandra with “atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, along with a decreased heart pump”, although that diagnosis was not known publicly until Fetterman’s stroke in May 2022.[141]

In 2018, Fetterman spoke publicly about a substantial weight loss. The 6-foot-9-inch (2.06 m) Fetterman, who had weighed more than 400 pounds (180 kg), had lost nearly 150 pounds (70 kg).[140][142][143]

On June 4, 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Fetterman “collapsed” while presiding over the State Senate; he became wobbly and grabbed the lectern to prevent himself from falling over, and a member of the Capitol’s nursing staff came to examine him.[144][145] Afterwards, Fetterman’s spokesperson said the lieutenant governor became overheated and was now “back to normal”.[145]

On May 13, 2022, Fetterman suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. According to Fetterman’s campaign, the stroke was found to have been caused by a clot caused by atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm); he was subsequently fitted with a pacemaker combined with an implanted defibrillator. Doctors informed Fetterman that he did not suffer cognitive damage, and a full recovery from the stroke is expected.[146][147] He was discharged from the hospital on May 22, 2022.[148]

Chandra confirmed in early June 2022 that Fetterman suffers from both atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy, and that the latter condition was the reason for the implantation of the defibrillator. He said Fetterman was “well compensated and stable” and that “If he takes his medications, eats healthy and exercises, he’ll be fine.”[149] Fetterman issued a statement in which he expressed regret for having previously ignored his health (after the 2017 diagnosis with atrial fibrillation, Fetterman did not see a doctor for five years and did not continue medications).[149][150][151]

Electoral history

Braddock mayoral election, 2005 Democratic primary[152]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John Fetterman 149 35.06%
DemocraticVirginia Bunn14834.82%
DemocraticPauline Abdullah (incumbent)12830.12%
Total votes425 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2005 general election[153]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John Fetterman 288 100.00%
Total votes288 100.0%
Democratic hold
Braddock mayoral election, 2009 Democratic primary[154]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John K. Fetterman (incumbent) 304 65.38%
DemocraticJayme J. Cox16034.41%
Write-in10.22%
Total votes465 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2009 general election[155]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John K. Fetterman (incumbent) 229 100.00%
Total votes229 100.0%
Democratic hold
Braddock mayoral election, 2013 Democratic primary[156]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John K. Fetterman (incumbent) 186 75.30%
DemocraticWilliam David Speece6024.29%
Write-in10.40%
Total votes247 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2013 general election[157]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John K. Fetterman (incumbent) 186 86.51%
Write-in2913.49%
Total votes215 100.0%
Democratic hold
Braddock mayoral election, 2017 Democratic primary[158]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John K. Fetterman (incumbent) 165 70.82%
DemocraticWilliam David Speece6728.76%
Write-in10.43%
Total votes233 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2017 general election[159]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John K. Fetterman (incumbent) 243 97.98%
Write-in52.02%
Total votes248 100.0%
Democratic hold
U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Democratic primary, 2016[160]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Katie McGinty 669,774 42.50%
DemocraticJoe Sestak513,22132.57%
DemocraticJohn Fetterman307,09019.49%
DemocraticJoseph Vodvarka85,8375.45%
Total votes1,575,922 100.00%
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Gubernatorial Democratic primary, 2018[161]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John Fetterman 290,719 37.48%
DemocraticNina Ahmad184,42923.78%
DemocraticKathi Cozzone143,84918.55%
DemocraticMike Stack (incumbent)128,93116.62%
DemocraticRay Sosa27,7323.58%
Total votes775,660 100.0%
Pennsylvania Gubernatorial general election, 2018[162]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticTom Wolf (incumbent)/John Fetterman 2,895,652 57.77% +2.84%
RepublicanScott Wagner/Jeff Bartos2,039,88240.70%−4.37%
LibertarianKen Krawchuk/Kathleen Smith49,2290.98%N/A
GreenPaul Glover/Jocolyn Bowser-Bostick27,7920.55%N/A
Total votes5,012,555 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold
United States Senate election, 2022 Democratic primary election[87]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic John Fetterman 752,402 58.6
DemocraticConor Lamb336,93326.3
DemocraticMalcolm Kenyatta139,26010.9
DemocraticAlexandria Khalil54,3514.2
Total votes1,282,946 100.0

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External links

Political offices
Preceded by

Pauline Abdullah
Mayor of Braddock
2005–2019
Succeeded by

Chardaé Jones
Preceded by

Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania
2019–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by

Mike Stack
Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania
2018
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
(Class 3)

2022
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