Braddock mayor announces bid for lieutenant governor
John Fetterman, the mayor whose efforts to turn Braddock around have drawn national media attention, announced his campaign for lieutenant governor Tuesday.
“The reasons I am running for lieutenant governor are the exact reasons I came to Braddock back in 2001” — to fight for progressive issues including a higher minimum wage, better police-community relations and marijuana legalization, he said.
“I’m going to be going out all across Pennsylvania, campaigning [in] many of these forgotten places — second-chance cities, whatever you want to call them — that have become my professional passion,” he told about 100 supporters in a Braddocktheater space.
Mr. Fetterman, a Democrat who often sports a Dickie-shirtand-cargo-shorts ensemble, opened his five-minute speech joking that “Everyone is here for a major announcement. I’m wearing long pants today.”
Mr. Fetterman later told reporters he had no intention of changing his style, or his address. “I’m always going to live across the street from a steel mill,” referring to the Edgar Thomson works a stone’s throw fromthe event and his home.
Ordinarily, lieutenant governors live in a three-story home in Fort Indiantown Gap. The job also comes with a $162,373 salary; as a part-time mayor, Mr. Fetterman’s
salary is $150 a month, though he says he declines it.
Lieutenant governors are elected separately from the governor, and incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack has been mired in controversy around allegations he mistreated state employees. He has little relationship with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is running for re-election.
Mr. Fetterman, who described Mr. Stack as “another candidate in this race,” told reporters he would run on issues. “It’s just going to be a positive raceabout our record and our ideas.”
Also running are Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone and Aryanna Berringer, a Murrysville Iraq War veteran and previous congressional candidate.
Ms. Berringer’s campaign reacted to Mr. Fetterman’s entry with a statement saying she “fought my way out of poverty and served on the front lines of war. ... I’ve faced a lot harder challenges in life than a political campaign, no matter who or how many candidates run.”
Mr. Fetterman said he spoke to Mr. Wolf’s team before deciding whether to run, and that they raised no objection — although “they’re not weighing in on the race.” He would, he said, be “a progressive backstop” for Mr. Wolf, supporting the administration’s agenda while using his “bully pulpit” to advocate for communities like his own.
Mr. Fetterman’s kickoff included an endorsement by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who said that while many leaders fomented division between communities, Mr. Fetterman was “somebody who can not only speak for all, but who has proven through their leadership in a community that has been knocked down to its knees.”
Much of Mr. Fetterman’s campaign messaging, including an introductory video, contrasted him with President Donald Trump, whose 2016 campaign targeted the resentment of rust belt communities.
The two-minute video features shots of residents working together. Mr. Fetterman laments that “the leadership in this country will turn around and use towns and places like mine as props.” Turning around places like Braddock, he said, means, “You’ve got to get busy living or get busy dying.”
Mr. Fetterman grew up in a York family that owned an insurance business, and later earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University. He moved to Braddock after participating in an AmeriCorps program helping people earn high school equivalency diplomas. He ran for mayor of the distressed city in 2005, winning by a single vote.
Although mayoral powers in a borough like Braddock largely are limited to policing, Mr. Fetterman used nonprofit ties and charisma to encourage a turnaround. Amenities in Braddock now include an urban garden and a brewpub.
Braddock’s population has continued to decline, though,and more than a third of its roughly 2,200 residents live below poverty level.
But Mr. Fetterman’s efforts brought national attention, including a Levi’s ad campaign and news stories that often feature his tattoos — one for every resident murdered during his tenure as mayor — under headlines such as “Mayor of Rust.”
Mr. Fetterman ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, and finished third in a four-way Democratic primary.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman hugs Delia Lennon-Winstead of Braddock after he announced his bid to seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor on Tuesday. Ms. Lennon-Winstead said she has been following Mr. Fetterman’s political career from the beginning. To watch a video, visit post-gazette.com.