Before John Fetterman was a mayor of Braddock, PA and lieutenant governor, he was an AmeriCorps member in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. There, he founded the first computer labs in the neighborhood and began to teach high school dropouts how to get back on track in the workforce and earn their GEDs. He also worked to build up the community’s social services and helped provide a safe haven for young adults who had found themselves on the streets or in their homes.
He has never forgotten the lessons of those years, even as he has sought to rebuild Braddock into an inclusive, welcoming community. His efforts have been recognized nationally in articles and stories. He has been twice a guest on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and is considered by many as one of the most innovative leaders in town, an urbanist who has used design and creativity to transform the city.
When he was elected mayor, he threw himself into helping to rebuild the community. It was a time when the neighborhood was in disarray, with crime and drugs running rampant. He seized on the opportunity to create jobs and build up the neighborhood’s services. He also tapped into his experience working with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, which pairs mentors with kids in need.
As mayor, he continued to focus on a more progressive agenda than most of his counterparts in the Democratic Party. He criticized President Donald Trump’s policies and the nation’s healthcare system, and he supported legalizing marijuana statewide. He also tried to encourage a more balanced view of race and religion in the city.
Then, in 2016, he ran for the Senate seat held by former Republican Pat Toomey. He finished third in a four-way race, getting 20 percent of the vote. Though he received fewer votes than his challenger, Katie McGinty, who would eventually defeat Toomey, he felt he had won a victory that gave him confidence he could continue to make an impact in the state’s government.
Despite a tough campaign against his opponent, Mehmet Oz, and a costly fight that made him the most expensive Senate race in 2022, Fetterman defeated Oz in November by 5 percentage points, flipping a seat that was once held by now-retired Republican Pat Toomey. During the campaign, more than $300 million was spent on the campaign and it was a key election in the state’s reshaping of its political landscape.
It has been a year since Fetterman suffered his stroke, and he continues to struggle with lingering speech issues. He has said he’s dealing with auditory processing challenges, which can affect how the brain processes words. He has said he occasionally finds it difficult to understand the people with whom he is speaking, especially in noisy environments.
His campaign has emphasized that the health issue is not a threat to his fitness to serve, and has urged his supporters to keep him in close touch with his doctors as they work on his recovery. On Wednesday, his office released a statement saying that initial tests did not show evidence of a new stroke.