BRADDOCK (KDKA) — He’ s hardly your typical candidate for public office, as John Fetterman is the first to acknowledge.
“I don’t look like a typical politician. I don’t even look like a typical person,” says Fetterman.
But the unconventional mayor of Braddock — always dressed in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt — made it official on Monday.
He wants a much higher profile political job.
“I very humbly announce that I am seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate,” Fetterman told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters on the rooftop of his home just across from the Edgar Thompson Steel Works.
Fetterman said he was ready to go to Washington and to take the skills and determination he has used to re-build Braddock.
“I will fight in a principled collaborative way that my 14 years of service here in Braddock demonstrates, and I will take these Braddock values to Washington DC.”
To show off Braddock, Fetterman loaded some reporters into the back of a pick-up truck for a tour of the town — like a new computer software company in Braddock, or a commercial urban farm along Braddock Avenue, or the new micro-brewery that has become a favorite haunt, to say nothing of new residential housing replacing the torn down UPMC Hospital.
Of course, not everything is rosy in Braddock, as opponents will no doubt note.
Fetterman is up against two other Democrats in next April’s primary — former Congressman Joe Sestak and Governor Wolf’s former top aide Katie McGinty who has already lined up lots of political support — except for one local legislator, state Rep. Paul Costa, who endorsed Fetterman.
“They don’t know the mayor as well as I do, and it was a no-brainer for me,” Costa told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
At more than 6-and-a-half feet tall, Fetterman has always stood out, even to his neighbors in Braddock.
“I remember first seeing John on Braddock Avenue,” recalled life-long resident Phyllis Brown.
“White, bald, big, black boots, shorts,” said Brown. “His presence here turned heads — and our town — around.”
Now Fetterman wants to turn Washington DC around.
To many, Braddock may seem a very unlikely place to launch a bid for the U.S. Senate, but Fetterman says it represents his fight against the unfairness of inequality.
That battle against inequality will be a major theme in his campaign.
“I want to confront inequality in all its forms in this country,” Fetterman told KDKA political editor Jon Delano in a sit-down interview.
Economic, racial and gender.
Fetterman said Pennsylvanians need an advocate.
“My message to Democratic voters is you have a voice in the struggles that you are facing every day.”
Harvard-educated from a well-off family, Fetterman chose to settle and raise a family in Braddock 14 years ago and was elected mayor to help revitalize a town then marked by crime and decay.
It’s getting things done that won his first endorsement from a local legislator.
“He could bring a fresh voice to Washington DC,” said Costa. “He’s someone who doesn’t necessarily take no for an answer. He figures out ways to get things done.”
Jon Delano asked Fetterman if he was the Donald Trump, the outsider, in this race for Senate.
“I certainly don’t hold the same values as a typical politician,” Fetterman replied.
“I play in straight. That’s what I’ve done in Braddock, and that’s what I’m going to do in this campaign.”
Ahead of his announcement, Fetterman joined the KDKA Morning News with Larry Richert and John Shumway Monday to talk about why he wants to be the next senator from Pennsylvania.
“I think there are a lot of lessons that the Commonwealth can benefit from that we’ve discovered here in Braddock,” says Fetterman.
At 6-foot-8 with tattoos, Fetterman knows he doesn’t have the look of a typical politician.
He says, “I don’t even look like a typical person.”
But Fetterman says he has the organization, and for funding he plans on “$20 at a time.”
“Twenty dollars is a lot out here, and we’re just going to take our case to the people and we’re going to raise a lot online, and it’s going to be [a grassroots campaign].”