John Fetterman
Official portrait, 2023
United States Senator
from Pennsylvania
Assumed office
January 3, 2023
Serving with Bob Casey Jr.
Preceded byPat Toomey
34th Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania
In office
January 15, 2019 – January 3, 2023
GovernorTom Wolf
Preceded byMike Stack
Succeeded byKim Ward (acting)
Mayor of Braddock
In office
January 2, 2006 – January 8, 2019
Preceded byPauline Abdullah
Succeeded byChardaé Jones
Personal details
Born
John Karl Fetterman

(1969-08-15) August 15, 1969 (age 54)
West Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse
(m. 2008)
Children3
Education
WebsiteSenate website

John Karl Fetterman (/ˈfɛtərmən/ FEH-tər-mən; born August 15, 1969) is an American politician serving as the junior United States senator from Pennsylvania since 2023.[1] A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, from 2006 to 2019 and as the 34th lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania from 2019 to 2023.[2] Generally described as a progressive and a populist, Fetterman advocates healthcare as a right, criminal justice reform, abolishing capital punishment, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and legalizing cannabis.[3][clarification needed]

Fetterman studied finance at Albright College and earned an MBA from the University of Connecticut before beginning a professional career in the insurance industry. He went on to join AmeriCorps and earned a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard University. Fetterman's service with AmeriCorps led him to Braddock, where he moved in 2004 and was elected mayor the following year. As mayor, Fetterman sought to revitalize the former steel town through art and youth programs.

Fetterman ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, finishing 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.[4] During his tenure, Fetterman received national attention for his efforts to legalize cannabis statewide and opposition to President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud in Pennsylvania.

In 2021, Fetterman announced his candidacy in the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Pennsylvania. He won the Democratic nomination with 59% of the vote and defeated Republican nominee Mehmet Oz in the general election. Fetterman resigned as lieutenant governor upon being sworn into the Senate on January 3, 2023.[5]

Early life and education

Fetterman was born at Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pennsylvania, to Karl and Susan Fetterman,[6] both of whom were 19 years old.[7] Eventually they moved to York, Pennsylvania, where Fetterman grew up and his father became a partner at an insurance firm.[8][9][10] He grew up in an affluent suburb of York, and his parents were conservative Republicans.[8][11]

Fetterman had a self-described privileged upbringing; he said he "sleepwalked" as a young adult while playing four years of football in college, intending eventually to take over ownership of his father's business.[11][12] In 1991, Fetterman graduated from Albright College, also his father's alma mater, with a bachelor's in finance. He also received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Connecticut (UConn) in 1993.[13][14] For two years Fetterman worked in Pittsburgh as a risk-management underwriter for Chubb.[15]

While Fetterman was studying at UConn, his best friend died in a car accident; this impacted Fetterman's life and career.[16] After 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.[17] 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.[18]

In 1995, Fetterman joined the recently founded AmeriCorps, and was sent to teach Pittsburgh students pursuing their GEDs.[19] He later attended Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University, graduating in 1999 with a Master of Public Policy degree.[20]

Fetterman began his corporate career working at an insurance firm. He came to Braddock in 2001 to start an Out-of-School-Youth Program, helping local youth to earn their GEDs.[21] He moved to Braddock in 2004.[8][22]

Mayor of Braddock (2006–2019)

Fetterman in 2009

Elections

Fetterman ran for mayor of Braddock against the incumbent, Pauline Abdullah, in 2005. With backing from the town's young residents, he won the Democratic primary by a single vote.[23][8] Fetterman won the general election;[24] he did not face a Republican opponent.[23]

In the 2009 Democratic primary for mayor of Braddock, Fetterman faced Jayme Cox.[25][26] During the campaign, Cox attacked him for failing to build consensus with the town council.[25] Cox also criticized Fetterman for abuse of power after Fetterman released non-public records that showed Cox was arrested in 2004.[25] Braddock Solicitor Lawrence Shields agreed that Fetterman's conduct constituted "an abuse of his mayoral authority" and violated the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act.[26] Fetterman defeated Cox in the primary by a vote of 294 to 103[25] and was unopposed in the general election. Fetterman handily won the Democratic primaries in 2013 and 2017, and was unopposed in the general elections.[27]

Tenure

Fetterman served as the part-time mayor of Braddock and the full-time director of the city's youth program.[28] He also founded a nonprofit organization, Braddock Redux, which he used to acquire and save properties in Braddock.[29]

Fetterman's father helped subsidize Fetterman financially because the position of mayor paid only $150 per month.[8] He received payments of $54,000 from his father in 2015.[15] 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 are the dates of nine murders that occurred in the town while he was mayor.[30]

After his first election, one of Fetterman's first acts was to set up a website for Braddock showing the town's mostly neglected and destroyed buildings.[31] 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, he purchased the town's First Presbyterian Church for $50,000 and lived in its basement for several months.[32] The church was later turned into the town's community center.[31] Fetterman later purchased an adjacent warehouse for $2,000, placed two shipping containers on the roof for extra living space, and moved in.[28] He worked to convert vacant lots into parks and gardens, build the town's first public basketball court, and establish a two-acre organic urban farm, worked by teenagers of the Braddock Youth Project.[33][34] To help fund programs, Fetterman established relationships with local nonprofit organizations, Allegheny County's economic development program, and then-county executive Dan Onorato.[34] For example, Fetterman helped secure a $400,000 grant from the Heinz Foundation toward the building of a green roof, which provided 100 summer construction jobs for local youth.[35]

Fetterman pitched Braddock to people around the country as a place to move due to the town's low real estate prices.[31] The town has attracted people from cities such as Chicago and Portland, Oregon, drawn by the potential for growth.[31] Inspired by Fetterman's call, a group of Brooklyn residents moved to Braddock and transformed an abandoned church into an art center.[36] But Braddock's redevelopment raised concerns about gentrification.[11][33] Despite Fetterman's attempts to attract new residents to Braddock, the population continued to hover around 2,000, and even though the town's real estate was cheap, many of the homes were condemned or uninhabitable.[37][38]

Braddock mayors hold administrative power over the Braddock Police Department,[35] but Fetterman delegated that power to Braddock Police Chief Frank DeBartolo for the sake of efficiency.[35] Fetterman aimed to improve the relationship between Braddock's residents and the police by serving as a mediator during disputes.[35] During his tenure as mayor, Braddock's homicide rate fell substantially; for five years, there were no gun-related murders in Braddock.[8]

In 2006, Fetterman opposed the expansion of Mon-Fayette Expressway, a partially completed four-lane highway that connects Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.[33] He argued that the planned expansion of the expressway would cut straight through Braddock and destroy the town.[33]

While mayor, Fetterman had a contentious relationship with the town council and did not attend many council meetings.[8] In 2009, members of the town council attempted to have him removed from a town council meeting and arrested after he criticized a political opponent while delivering his mayoral report.[35] The 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 nonprofit. A judge later dismissed the complaint.[39] To avoid the town council's gridlock, Fetterman used his nonprofit to accomplish many of his ideas for Braddock; this approach limited citizens' input into the projects.[38]

In November 2010, Fetterman was arrested and immediately released after refusing to leave the property of the U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh while protesting the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's controversial closure of Braddock Hospital.[40][41] The Braddock Hospital was Braddock's largest employer, and its closure left the town without a healthcare provider.[36]

Also in November 2010, Fetterman took a leading role in trying to close down Club 804, a Braddock nightclub he described as a public nuisance after a shooting occurred there.[42] Two years later, the club renamed itself "Club Elegance" and Fetterman unsuccessfully sought to have it shut down for violating Braddock's ordinance regarding acceptable locations for certain sexually oriented businesses.[43]

Fetterman cast only one vote during his tenure as mayor. In 2012, he voted to help the borough council choose a president.[44]

Starting in 2013, Fetterman began defying a 1996 Pennsylvania law that banned same-sex marriage and began to marry LGBT couples inside his home.[45]

In 2013, Fetterman and celebrity chef Kevin Sousa established a restaurant in Braddock, something the town had lacked.[46] He bought a 3,000-square-foot former car dealership, intending to make it the site of the new restaurant. The restaurant was named Superior Motors.[46] The restaurant opened in 2017, but closed in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[47] Mayor Chardaé Jones, Fetterman's successor, criticized the restaurant for closing after only a few years and having received a Paycheck Protection Program loan for $190,000 in 2020.[47]

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 he detained with a shotgun.[48] The jogger, Chris Miyares, a black American, said that what Fetterman thought were gunshots were kids shooting bottle rockets. Fetterman said no debris had been found.[49] Miyares claimed that Fetterman pointed the shotgun at his chest while he loaded the gun and then aimed the gun at his face.[48] Fetterman denies that he pointed the gun at Miyares and said he only pointed the gun in a way to show that he was armed and that he "didn't even have a round chambered or the safety off."[48] He said he believed he "did the right thing" and has not apologized.[50][48] No charges were brought against either in connection with the incident,[49] and Miyares never filed a formal complaint.[48]

The incident gained new attention during Fetterman's Senate bid, with critics alleging a racial element to the incident.[49][51][50] Fetterman's campaign denied allegations of racism, claiming that Miyares was wearing a black sweatsuit and mask, so Fetterman could not have identified his race or gender.[49][51] 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.[49]

In 2021, Miyares wrote that Fetterman had "lied about everything" that happened during the incident, but that he had "done far more good than that one bad act" and "should not be defined by it", and that he hoped Fetterman would win the Senate race.[52]

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.[38] A 2009 article in The Guardian called him "America's coolest mayor".[53]

Fetterman appeared 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.[31]

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.[54][55]

During Fetterman's mayoral tenure, several Braddock residents, including the members of the town council, criticized him for his media appearances that emphasized what they saw as negative aspects of the town.[35] 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."[35] In 2018, 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."[37] Buba pointed out that while Fetterman was mayor, Braddock's population had stagnated, and while the average income had grown, it was still only $25,000 per household.[37]

Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania (2019–2023)

Elections

2018

Main article: 2018 Pennsylvania gubernatorial election § Lieutenant Governor

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.[56] 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.[57] Fetterman was endorsed by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto and former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell.[37][56][58]

On May 15, Fetterman won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor with 38% of the vote.[59] 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.[60][61]

Tenure

Fetterman being sworn in as Lieutenant Governor in 2019 in the Pennsylvania State Senate chamber.

Fetterman was sworn into office as the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania on January 15, 2019, replacing Mike Stack.[62] One the first tasks Governor Tom Wolf gave him was to look into legalizing marijuana statewide.[62] Fetterman went on a statewide tour, visiting all 67 Pennsylvania counties, and spoke to residents about legalization.[63] After completing his tour, he published a report on his findings.

Official portrait, 2019

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.[64] State employees removed them when an omnibus bill, signed into law by Wolf, banned unauthorized flags on capitol property. Fetterman continued to defy the law by flying the flags outside his office.[64]

An Associated Press review of Fetterman's daily schedule during his tenure as lieutenant governor found that he kept a light work schedule and was often absent from official state business.[65] From his inauguration in January 2019 until May 2022, Fetterman's official schedule was blank for one-third of workdays.[65] Additionally, the days that he worked were often short, ranging from four to five hours.[65] He was often absent from presiding over the Pennsylvania State Senate, an official duty of the lieutenant governor. In 2020, he attended only half of the Senate's sessions; in 2021, he attended only a third of them.[65]

Board of Pardons

The lieutenant governor has very little actual power, but does oversee the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. In this position, Fetterman worked to increase commutations and pardons for those serving jail time in Pennsylvania.[66] 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".[66] The Inquirer also reported that he threatened to run against Attorney General Josh Shapiro (who, at the time, was planning a run for governor) unless Shapiro supported more pardons.[66]

While chaired by Fetterman, the Board of Pardons recommended 50 commutations for life sentences, and Governor Wolf granted 47 commutations.[67] As lieutenant governor, Fetterman announced "a coordinated effort for a one-time, large-scale pardoning project for people with select minor, nonviolent marijuana criminal convictions".[67]

Donald Trump

Fetterman as lieutenant governor in 2022

In November 2020, Fetterman received national press coverage for saying Donald Trump was "no different than any other random internet troll"[68] 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.[69]

Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania, defeating Trump by more than 81,000 votes.[70] Trump's claims of voter fraud led to a challenge of the results, and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton filed suit to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania and other states.[71] 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 Patrick should pay $1 million for each of these cases. He said he was proud to announce that Trump "got 100% of the dead mother vote" in Pennsylvania.[72] Fetterman's lampooning of the alleged voting fraud received nationwide publicity.[72][73]

U.S. Senate (2023–present)

Elections

2016

Main article: 2016 United States Senate election in Pennsylvania § Democratic primary

Fetterman campaigning in Pittsburgh in 2016

On September 14, 2015, Fetterman announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Toomey in the 2016 election.[74] His campaign was considered a long shot against two better-known candidates, Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Senate.[75] Fetterman was endorsed by former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley,[76] former Pennsylvania treasurer Barbara Hafer,[77] and the PennLive editorial board.[78]

Fetterman's campaign focused on progressive values and building support through grassroots movement, drawing comparisons to Bernie Sanders.[79] He was the only statewide Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania to endorse Sanders.[80] Though lacking statewide name recognition, low on campaign funds, and polling as low as 4% a week before the primary,[81] Fetterman garnered 20% of the primary vote. Katie McGinty, who spent $4,312,688 on the primary and 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.[82][83] After the primary, Fetterman campaigned on behalf of McGinty,[84] who lost to Toomey in the general election.

2022

Main article: 2022 United States Senate election in Pennsylvania

Fetterman's 2022 U.S. Senate campaign logo

In January 2021, Fetterman announced he was launching an exploratory committee for the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Pennsylvania.[85][86] 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 Toomey.[87][88] On February 8, 2021, he officially entered the race.[89]

Democratic primary

Fetterman's main opponent in the Democratic primary was U.S. representative Conor Lamb.[90] A political action committee supporting Lamb ran ads attacking Fetterman as "a self-described democratic socialist".[90] While the ad cited an NPR article that called Fetterman a socialist, The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, "Fetterman has never actually described himself that way."[90] Both Lamb and another candidate, Malcolm Kenyatta, criticized Fetterman for an incident where he pulled a loaded shotgun on a black jogger whom he believed had fired a gun.[90]

While leading in many polls, Fetterman received few endorsements in the Democratic primary. State representative John I. Kane said that the lack of endorsements was characteristic of Fetterman's "lone wolf personality". Darisha Parker, a state representative from Philadelphia, argued that his lack of endorsements was because he had "never come and introduced himself to me or any of my colleagues... 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.?"[91]

Fetterman won the Democratic primary by a landslide with 58.7% of the vote to Lamb's 26.3%. He 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 majority-black precincts.[92] Fetterman's wife Gisele gave a victory speech on her husband's behalf, as he was hospitalized following a stroke.[93]

General election

In the general election, Fetterman faced Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, a celebrity television doctor. According to The Philadelphia Citizen, Fetterman employed a social media campaign strategy consisting of shitposting and internet memes.[94] The Daily Beast reported that Oz's New Jersey residency, net worth, and connections to Donald Trump were the focus of many of the memes.[95] Criticizing Oz's previous residency in New Jersey became a particular hallmark of Fetterman's campaign, seeking to label Oz a carpetbagger. Efforts by the campaign to highlight Oz's New Jersey ties included enlisting New Jersey celebrities Snooki and Steven Van Zandt to record video messages aimed at Oz,[96][97] and having a plane banner fly over the Jersey Shore reading "Hey Dr. Oz: Welcome home to N.J.! ❤️ John."[98]

Fetterman's health was also a major issue in the campaign because he had suffered a stroke days before his primary victory.[99]

At an August 2022 rally in Erie, Fetterman appeared in public for the first time since recovering from his stroke; according to Politico, he "appeared physically healthy and mostly talked without any issues. At times, however, his speech was somewhat halted."[96] In October 2022, he gave his first in-person interview since the stroke, with Dasha Burns, on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.[100] As a result of his stroke, Fetterman required closed-captioning technology to read the questions as they were being asked out loud.[100] Burns said that in their uncaptioned conversation before the interview, she was uncertain whether he could understand her.[101] This drew criticism from other reporters, who said Fetterman did not exhibit such difficulty in other interviews.[102]

In September 2022, Oz called on Fetterman to debate him before early voting began in Pennsylvania on September 19.[103] Fetterman agreed to debate Oz in "the middle to end of October" but did not commit to an exact date or to a debate in September.[104] Oz and Toomey criticized Fetterman's approach to the debate.[105] The Washington Post wrote that it "raised questions about whether [Fetterman], still recovering from a serious stroke, is fit to serve in the Senate".[106] On September 15, Oz and Fetterman agreed to a single debate on October 25.[107]

Politico reported that Fetterman struggled during the debate "to effectively communicate—missing words, pausing awkwardly and speaking haltingly",[108][109] while The New York Times reported that "he was also fluent enough over the course of the hour to present his Democratic vision for a state that could determine control of the Senate".[110] According to the Times, Fetterman was an uneven debater even before his stroke.[111] Republicans seized on his appearances and behavior after the stroke to suggest that he was not fit for office; according to medical experts, speech impairment after a stroke does not indicate cognitive impairment.[112] Senator Chris Coons said that the debate "was hard to watch" but that Pennsylvanians would still be attracted to Fetterman's candidacy because of his "record of what he's done in Braddock [and] as lieutenant governor".[113]

Although Fetterman led most pre-election polls, his debate performance and concerns about his health helped Oz take a narrow lead before the election.[114][115][116]

On November 9, media outlets projected Fetterman as the winner of the election.[117][118][119] Fetterman won the election with 51.3% of the vote to Oz's 46.3%.[120]

Tenure

Fetterman took office on January 3, 2023.[121] At 6 feet 8 inches tall, he is the tallest currently serving senator.[122]

According to The New York Times, Fetterman's adjustment to the Senate has been "extraordinarily challenging—even with the [extensive] accommodations that have been made to help him adapt".[123] To assist with Fetterman's stroke-related speech processing issues, the Senate chamber was outfitted with closed captioning technology at his desk and at the front of the chamber.[124]

In February 2023, Fetterman attended his first Agriculture Committee hearing.[125] He asked questions about trade and organic farming, but stumbled slightly over his words.[125]

Fetterman was hospitalized for syncope (lightheadedness) for two days beginning on February 10, 2023.[126] Two days after his release he was hospitalized again, for a severe case of major depression. For about two months, Fetterman lived and worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.[127] As part of his daily schedule at the hospital, his chief of staff arrived at 10 a.m. on weekdays with newspaper clips, statements for Fetterman to approve, and legislation to review.[127] During his hospitalization, Fetterman co-sponsored a bipartisan rail safety bill, introduced after the derailment of a chemical-carrying train in East Palestine, Ohio, close to the border with Pennsylvania; the regulation aimed to strengthen freight-rail safety regulations to prevent future derailments.[127][128]

On April 17, 2023, Fetterman returned to the Senate to chair the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittee on food and nutrition, specialty crops, organics and research.[129] The Washington Post said that Fetterman's "voice stumbled at times while reading from prepared notes" during the subcommittee hearing, but "he appeared in good spirits" and communicated a message about the importance of fighting hunger.[130]

Fetterman was among the five Senate Democrats who voted against final passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.[131] He said his vote was motivated by the new SNAP requirements included in the deal, which raised the work requirements from able-bodied adults under age 50 who do not live with any dependent children to adults under age 54.[132]

Committee assignments

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.[8][134] 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.[135] In 2022, The New York Times characterized Fetterman as "left-leaning".[136] Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer described Fetterman, alongside New York City Mayor Eric Adams, as "simultaneously progressive, moderate and conservative".[137] After Fetterman rejected the progressive label again in 2023, NBC News called his ideology an "unorthodox brand of blue-collar liberalism, with a dash of outsider populism."[138]

Abortion

In a Democratic primary debate in May 2022, 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."[139] Later that month, Fetterman reiterated his position opposing any legal restrictions on abortion, including in the third trimester.[140]

Immigration

John Fetterman refers to himself as “perhaps the most pro-immigration member of the Senate”, and has leveled criticism against the House Republican majority of the 118th United States Congress for what he percieves as an unwillingness to find a compromise on border policy.[141] He describes the issue as "very personal" and important to him, connecting his views to his wife's status as a "DREAMer".[142]

However, he has repeatedly expressed concern about the Mexico–United States border crisis, viewing the scale as unsustainable and calling for a bipartisan "reset" on border policy. In this, he has shown an openness towards policies which would restrict the flow of migration, such as asylum limits. These comments earned him criticism from progressives, causing many commentators to characterize it as an ideological break from his own party.[143][144]

Congressional stock ownership

Fetterman supports barring members of Congress and their immediate families from trading or holding stocks.[145]

Criminal justice reform

Prison reform is one of Fetterman's signature issues, advocating for more rehabilitation action as well as clemency for model prisoners. As part of his role as lieutenant governor, he served 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.[146]

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".[147]

Fetterman supports the elimination of mandatory sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole for second degree murder, in which someone commits a felony resulting in death, but is not directly responsible for the killing. He does not support eliminating life without parole as a sentence.[148][149][150] His Senate race opponent, Mehmet Oz, claimed that Fetterman supports "eliminat[ing] life sentences for murderers", which PolitiFact and other fact-checking outlets called a distortion of Fetterman's position.[151][149]

Environmental issues

Previously, Fetterman opposed fracking, calling the practice "an environmental abomination".[152] He has since shifted his stance on the issue, saying that he supports permitting fracking, although he advocates for stricter environmental regulations.[146] Fetterman says there needs to be a balance between decarbonization efforts and creating jobs in the fossil fuel industry. While running for lieutenant governor, he supported establishing two new fracking wells.[37] 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".[153] 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."[154]

Filibuster

Fetterman supports ending the filibuster in the United States Senate.[155] He has also said that Democrats need to be more ruthless, like Republicans, in order to pass legislative priorities.[156]

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".[11]

Israel

Fetterman is a strong supporter of Israel–United States relations and said 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". He has said he supports Israel's right to defend itself and is "passionate" in his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He supported a law signed 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.[157]

During the 2023 Israel-Hamas war, Fetterman expressed steadfast support for Israel. He placed blame for the conflict entirely on Hamas.[158] When confronted by pro-Palestine protesters outside the U.S. Capitol, Fetterman waved an Israeli flag at them.[159][160] In a separate incident, Fetterman told a pro-Palestine activist she should "be protesting Hamas" instead of Israel [159] He also blamed TikTok for creating "warped" perceptions of the conflict and widening divisions.[158]

NATO

In 2023, Fetterman voted against an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have clarified that Article 5 of the NATO treaty does not obviate the need for Congress to declare war.[161][162]

Fetterman voted for Tim Kaine's amendment, which prohibits the president of the United States from withdrawing from NATO without congressional approval.[163][164]

Gun policy

Fetterman supports greater restrictions on gun purchases.[165]

Healthcare

Fetterman has described himself as a supporter of Medicare for All, saying that healthcare is a "fundamental human need and right".[134] Fetterman's website states that "Healthcare is a fundamental human right,"[166] and that he would "support whatever path" is necessary to expand healthcare accessibility including the expansion of Obamacare.[167] In debate, he reaffirmed he would vote for Medicare for All.[168]

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.[169] He also supports expunging criminal convictions related to marijuana.[170]

Minimum wage

Fetterman supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.[134]

Policing

Fetterman has described himself as "pro-policing", including pro-community policing. He opposes defunding the police, calling the movement "absurd",[152] but supports the Black Lives Matter movement.[171][172] 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".[173]

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.[174]

Taxation

Fetterman supports implementing a wealth tax in the United States.[175] He has said those "who have yachts" could be used as a potential benchmark.[176]

Unions

Fetterman is a supporter of labor unions, saying "The union way of life is sacred". He is a supporter of the PRO Act.[177]

Personal life

Fetterman and his wife Gisele Barreto Fetterman in 2019

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.[37] Fetterman invited Almeida to visit Braddock, and a year later they were married.[37] The couple has three children and they live in a converted car dealership[178] with their rescue dogs, Levi and Artie. The family chose to not live in State House, the official residence for Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor.[179]

In 2008, Allegheny County sued Fetterman and his nonprofit Braddock Redux for unpaid taxes. A tax lien was placed against Fetterman and his nonprofit for $25,000. In 2012, Fetterman paid off the unpaid taxes.[180]

In fall 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 and became friends with Gisele Fetterman, but remains anonymous.[181] Levi and Artie have their own Twitter account with more than 25,000 followers.[182] Levi is a mixed-breed dog and was featured in the CW's television special "Dogs of the Year 2021".[181][183] 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.[184]

Fetterman is known for his casual style of dress. He is often seen wearing a sweatshirt and shorts,[8] and long owned only one suit, which he wore when presiding over the Pennsylvania Senate, where there is a dress code.[8] Fetterman purchased a new suit for his swearing-in as a U.S. senator.[185]

In March 2023, right-wing conspiracy theorists spread a false theory that Fetterman had been replaced by a body double.[186]

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Fetterman has a net worth between $717,000 and $1.58 million.[15]

Health

According to Fetterman's Chief of Staff, Adam Jentleson, Fetterman has struggled with depression throughout his life.[187]

In 2017, Fetterman's feet suddenly began to swell and he was subsequently hospitalized for testing.[188] At that time, he was diagnosed by cardiologist Ramesh Chandra with "atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, along with a decreased heart pump", although this diagnosis was not known publicly until Fetterman's stroke in May 2022.[189]

In 2018, Fetterman spoke publicly about his substantial weight loss. Fetterman, who is 6 foot 8 inches tall (2.06 m), had weighed more than 400 pounds (180 kg) before losing approximately 150 pounds (70 kg).[188][190][191]

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.[192][193] Afterward, Fetterman's spokesperson said he had become overheated and was "back to normal".[193]

On May 13, 2022, Fetterman had an ischemic stroke and was hospitalized. The stroke was induced by a clot caused by atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm). Because Fetterman also had cardiomyopathy, his doctors implanted a pacemaker and defibrillator. He was discharged from the hospital on May 22, 2022.[194][195][196]

In an early June 2022 letter, Chandra wrote that Fetterman was "well compensated and stable" and that "If he takes his medications, eats healthy and exercises, he'll be fine."[197] His doctors reported that Fetterman did not sustain cognitive damage, and that they expected a full recovery.[196][198] Fetterman expressed regret for having ignored his health; after the 2017 diagnosis with atrial fibrillation, he did not see a doctor for five years and did not continue medications.[197][199][200]

In an October 2022 letter providing a medical update, Fetterman's primary care physician said that he "spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits" during examination and had significantly improved communication compared to his first visit with the doctor.[201][202] Fetterman's stroke left him with symptoms of an auditory processing disorder, and he uses closed captioning as an aid to read speech in real time.[203][204][205] The physician noted that Fetterman regularly attends speech therapy, routinely exercises, takes appropriate heart medications, and "has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office."[201][202]

On February 8, 2023, Fetterman was hospitalized overnight after feeling lightheaded during a U.S. Senate retreat earlier that day. His office reported that he was in "good spirits and talking with his staff and family", and that his hospitalization was unrelated to his stroke.[206] On February 16, 2023, Fetterman checked himself into Walter Reed Hospital due to clinical depression.[187] A senior aide later said Fetterman would remain hospitalized for "likely less than two months" while he underwent treatment.[207] Fetterman was discharged from Walter Reed on March 31.[208] He returned to the Senate on April 17 and chaired an Agriculture Committee subcommittee to discuss Pennsylvania's farm issues.[129]

Film

Fetterman made a cameo appearance in the 2022 film The Pale Blue Eye. In December 2022, he posted a photo of himself and his wife alongside actor Christian Bale on the set of the film. Fetterman also worked with Bale and the film's director, Scott Cooper, in 2013, when they filmed Out of the Furnace in Braddock.[209]

Electoral history

Braddock mayoral election, 2005 Democratic primary[210]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman 149 35.06%
Democratic Virginia Bunn 148 34.82%
Democratic Pauline Abdullah (incumbent) 128 30.12%
Total votes 425 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2005 general election[211]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman 288 100.00%
Total votes 288 100.0%
Democratic hold
Braddock mayoral election, 2009 Democratic primary[212]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman (incumbent) 304 65.38%
Democratic Jayme J. Cox 160 34.41%
Write-in 1 0.22%
Total votes 465 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2009 general election[213]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman (incumbent) 229 100.00%
Total votes 229 100.0%
Democratic hold
Braddock mayoral election, 2013 Democratic primary[214]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman (incumbent) 186 75.30%
Democratic William David Speece 60 24.29%
Write-in 1 0.40%
Total votes 247 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2013 general election[215]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman (incumbent) 186 86.51%
Write-in 29 13.49%
Total votes 215 100.0%
Democratic hold
Braddock mayoral election, 2017 Democratic primary[216]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman (incumbent) 165 70.82%
Democratic William David Speece 67 28.76%
Write-in 1 0.43%
Total votes 233 100.0%
Braddock mayoral election, 2017 general election[217]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman (incumbent) 243 97.98%
Write-in 5 2.02%
Total votes 248 100.0%
Democratic hold
U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Democratic primary, 2016[218]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Katie McGinty 669,774 42.50%
Democratic Joe Sestak 513,221 32.57%
Democratic John Fetterman 307,090 19.49%
Democratic Joseph Vodvarka 85,837 5.45%
Total votes 1,575,922 100.00%
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Gubernatorial Democratic primary, 2018[219]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman 290,719 37.48%
Democratic Nina Ahmad 184,429 23.78%
Democratic Kathi Cozzone 143,849 18.55%
Democratic Mike Stack (incumbent) 128,931 16.62%
Democratic Ray Sosa 27,732 3.58%
Total votes 775,660 100.0%
Pennsylvania Gubernatorial general election, 2018[220]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Tom Wolf (incumbent)/John Fetterman 2,895,652 57.77% +2.84%
Republican Scott Wagner/Jeff Bartos 2,039,882 40.70% −4.37%
Libertarian Ken Krawchuk/Kathleen Smith 49,229 0.98% N/A
Green Paul Glover/Jocolyn Bowser-Bostick 27,792 0.55% N/A
Total votes 5,012,555 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold
United States Senate election, 2022 Democratic primary election[92]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Fetterman 752,402 58.6
Democratic Conor Lamb 336,933 26.3
Democratic Malcolm Kenyatta 139,260 10.9
Democratic Alexandria Khalil 54,351 4.2
Total votes 1,282,946 100.0
2022 United States Senate election in Pennsylvania[221]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic John Fetterman 2,751,012 51.25% +3.91%
Republican Mehmet Oz 2,487,260 46.33% -2.44%
Libertarian Erik Gerhardt 72,887 1.36% -2.53%
Green Richard L. Weiss 30,434 0.57% N/A
Keystone Dan Wassmer 26,428 0.49% N/A
Total votes 5,368,021 100.0% N/A
Democratic gain from Republican

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Political offices Preceded byPauline Abdullah Mayor of Braddock 2005–2019 Succeeded byChardaé Jones Preceded byMike Stack Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania 2019–2023 Succeeded byKim WardActing Party political offices Preceded byMike Stack Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania 2018 Succeeded byAustin Davis Preceded byKatie McGinty Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania(Class 3) 2022 Most recent U.S. Senate Preceded byPat Toomey U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Pennsylvania 2023–present Incumbent U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byAlex Padillaas United States Senator from California Order of precedence of the United States as United States Senator from Pennsylvania since January 3, 2023 Succeeded byTed Buddas United States Senator from North Carolina Preceded byTed Budd United States senators by seniority 95th Succeeded byJ. D. Vance