The 2016 election cycle will bring enough fireworks at the National level for many people to forego down-ticket races that do not directly involve their vote. In a political season where being The Outsider threatening to turn over the Party Table and chase the money-changers from the Temple, it’s the long shot, disruptive dark horse that is drawing attention and excitement … with varying degrees of success.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders draw the bulk of attention at the Presidential level. For those not living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it might also be interesting to watch the race for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania … especially if John Fetterman wins the Pennsylvania Democrat primary for the Senate nomination!
Fetterman is nothing, if not the most atypical candidate for Senate since Al Franken attempted – unsuccessfully IMHO – to shed his Saturday Night Live persona when he went on to win a Senate seat in Minnesota. The difference between the two is that John Fetterman has been a serious man … always serious. And he has a successful background as a man who has gotten things done politically and socially.
Fetterman was born to teenage parents who struggled financially until John’s father started his own insurance business. He attended his father’s alma mater – Albright College – and successfully completed his Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In between, he did volunteer stints with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and AmeriCorps.
His AmeriCorps gig landed him in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a bedroom community to the long-gone steel mills of Andrew Carnegie in and around Pittsburgh. The town lost most of its jobs with the disappearance of the American steel industry.
In 2005 Fetterman challenged the incumbent mayor and won election by a single vote! The job paid $110/month, barely adding much financially to his $30,ooo/year job directing the Out-of-School-Youth Program. He won re-election in 2009 by an almost 3-1 margin.
He purchased the First Presbyterian Church, slated for demolition, a nearby abandoned warehouse, and numerous house, which he redeveloped and offered with cheap or free rent. Fetterman used the promise of cheap rent and initiated a rebirth of Braddock as an artsy Renaissance town complete with a two-acre organic garden managed by the Braddock Youth Project.
Those accomplishments certainly qualify John Fetterman as a most interesting and active public servant. But it’s his non-conforming physical and vocal presence that really sets him apart from the usual dry, buttoned-down Senate types.
Fetterman is physically imposing at 6’8″ tall, weighing 320 pounds. He has numerous tattoos, an imposing bald head, huge unruly chin beard, and a manner of plain dress that will definitely shake up the sleepy U.S. Senate chamber, if he were to get that far.
So deep is his dedication to Braddock, he has its Zip Code tattooed inside one arm!
Unfortunately, Fetterman trails a lightweight front-runner in Katie McGinty, whose limited claims to fame were serving in various National and State environmental roles and as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s campaign manager …
… And then there’s wacky Liberal re-tread Joe Sestak.
As a Republican sure to vote for incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, I tend to tune out the most liberal Democrats, as I was John Fetterman. That was until I saw the following Fetterman ad. Then I read his resumé …
If one concedes John Fetterman has a hopelessly uphill battle to bring his unorthodox – but productive – style of politics to the Senate, one cannot but hope he finds a way to continue his work in Pennsylvania. His sense of empathy and get-it-done attitude is something from which we all might benefit!