Braddock Mayor John Fetterman finds himself in the hot seat in campaign for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor | Pittsburgh City Paper

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman finds himself in the hot seat in campaign for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor

John Fetterman - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
John Fetterman
Mayor John Fetterman found himself in the hot seat Tuesday night during an hour-long Q&A with the University of Pittsburgh’s College Democrats.

Fetterman is running for lieutenant governor in the upcoming election, and Pitt’s Young Democratic Socialists on hand took the opportunity to challenge him on some of his progressive stances. The local branch of the Democratic Socialists of America met with Fetterman in December and declined to endorse him in the upcoming election.

Prior to the event this week, the Young Democratic Socialists, lead by co-chair Sean Bailey, researched Fetterman’s positions on a wide range of issues. At the event, they quizzed him on topics ranging from fracking and abortion laws to minimum wage and nonprofit laws.

“We wanted to differentiate between a strong progressive platform and the Fetterman campaign, and I think we did,” Bailey said.

In one of the first questions of the night, student Dignan Kelly challenged Fetterman’s endorsement of Rep. Paul Costa (D-Braddock), who, Kelly said, is “obviously anti-choice.” Kelly researched Costa’s voting record and found he supported a targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP, bill in 2011. Advocates say that these TRAP laws place so many restrictions on abortion providers that many patients are priced out of accessing abortions.

“I’m surprised you’re running for state-run office and didn’t know about those votes and Paul Costa’s stance,” Kelly said. “How can you claim to be pro-choice … and why should any woman trust you or vote for you?”

After asking if Kelly was part of the the Democratic Socialists of America, Fetterman asserted Costa is pro-choice, stating his voting record was taken out of context, and defended Costa as an advocate for Braddock.

Later in the evening, Fetterman said there must be a level of forgiveness involved when looking for a candidate who most closely aligns with your views.

“The only candidate you’re going to agree on 100 percent is yourself,” Fetterman said. “Unless your name is on the ballot, you’re always going to have an imperfect choice in front of you.”

Fetterman was also challenged on his support for fracking at the Edgar Thomson Works steel mill site in Braddock, because it doesn’t seem to align with his support for environmental issues. Fetterman said a devastating loss of jobs tied his hands on the matter.

“If you’re in a room of 1,200 steel workers, and this one well could save and extend the life of the Mon Valley Works for 20-30 years, what would you say?” Fetterman asked. “It’s a trade-off ... and it’s not one that I’m happy about.”

Compromise was a common thread through Fetterman’s remarks throughout the evening when pressed on his non-progressive stances on topics like gun control and nonprofit laws. But on other topics, like raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and the right to birth control, Fetterman's support puts him in the progressive column.