CP photo by Ryan Deto
John Fetterman during his 2016 U.S. Senate campaign.
On Nov. 14, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman announced his campaign to run for the state’s second highest office, lieutenant governor. The seat is currently held by Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia). Stack has been criticized for allegedly abusing his staff
, as well as for trying to expense thousands of dollars in hotel stays in Philadelphia, where he owns a home. Fetterman, also a Democrat, is hoping to unseat Stack, and join Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) on the 2018 general election ticket.
In a Nov.14 phone call with Pittsburgh City Paper
, Fetterman acknowledged the infighting between the Democratic Party and arguments over how the left should move forward to secure votes in the era of President Donald Trump
. The neoliberal side of the Democratic Party, which is more aligned with the policies of Hillary Clinton, believes a more moderate, while still generally progressive, approach will succeed. The Democratic Socialist
side, which is more aligned with the policies of Bernie Sanders, feels that drastic changes must take place in order to win elections.
But Fetterman believes his record shows that the two sides can come together. In 2016, he was one of the first U.S. Senate candidates to endorse Sanders, but after Sanders lost the primary, Fetterman started to campaign for Clinton. (He even started campaigning for his senate-election opponent Katie McGinty when he lost in the primary election.)
Fetterman said the different factions in the Democratic Party agree on “90% percent of everything” and that working out those minor differences is necessary to defeat Trump and the Republican Party.
“I was a Bernie endorser,” said Fetterman. “We as a party have to come together, and we can't let differences come between us. The only way Trump is going to win a second term is through a divided Democratic Party.”
Fetterman recognizes that many of the policies he supports are not in-line with everyone on the left's beliefs. He is one of the state’s strongest advocates for recreational marijuana
, comprehensive immigration reform, and campaign-finance reform and believes the country should move toward implementing a single-payer
health-care system. Some Democrats feel issues like single-payer are unworkable and not many Democrats have come out in support of recreational marijuana.
But Fetterman believes these differences can be worked out, just not on Twitter.
“It is OK to be divided on some issues, that is OK," said Fetterman. "That rift should be there sometimes. We need to keep talking that there is a rift, but stop doing it in 140 characters and stop being so snarky about it.”
However, despite the infighting, Fetterman said the Democrats have the best messages to win over the voters of Pennsylvania, even the rural and declining areas that gave many votes to Trump in 2016. He said that he understands the hopelessness of declining towns, since he has been the mayor of one, Braddock, for years, and why they were drawn to Trump. But Fetterman feels Trump was insincere in his pledge to make the Rust Belt great again, and Fetterman thinks he can convince declining-town voters to vote for Democrats. He believes the Democrats’ push for increasing the minimum wage is a good place to start.
“If you pay people $9 an hour, you can't expect them to provide from themselves,” said Fetterman. "I am for the Johnstowns, and the Monnessens
. I live in one of these communities, I don't use them as a prop.”
Ultimately, Fetterman said convincing Pennsylvanians in Pittsburgh, Johnstown
and beyond to back Democrats in statewide elections is paramount to stopping Republicans in their tracks. And with more legitimate Republican candidates seeking the governor’s office, like Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai
(R-Marshall), Fetterman said Democrats must unite to ensure those liberal ideals are preserved.
“If Wolf doesn't win, you are gonna see a miniature Trump administration in Harrisburg,” said Fetterman. “All things will be underserved. There will be attacks on immigration, environmental
regulations rolled back, and possibly a repeal of the Medicaid expansion. We need to make sure that we have that ability to stop those destructive policies from being implemented.”