Democratic Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman seemed like he would cruise to victory this summer. In the race to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), he had a commanding 11-point lead over Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz. The Left was animated over the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade—the abortion hysterics were fever-pitch. Congressional Democrats had just passed a spending bill, and it looked like Democrats could blunt the electoral disaster heading their way. Yet, it was all smoke and mirrors. The fury over abortion peaked. No one cares about an August spending bill, and working families looked at their bank statements, reminding them that inflation is still high and we’re in an economic recession.
Oz’s team has chipped away at Fetterman’s advantage by highlighting his laughably soft record on public safety, which included emptying one-third of Pennsylvania’s jail and abolishing life sentences for murderers. There are also questions about Fetterman’s health—the Braddock Democrat has been recovering from a severe stroke. It’s had an impact, showing more Keystone voters why they shouldn’t send a man with serious health complications to Washington.
Now, Salena Zito, who has written about the neo-populist wave that reached its crest during the 2016 cycle, traveled to Braddock, where Fetterman first made his name as mayor. She found that its residents have different views regarding the town’s supposed renaissance. One of the main selling points about Fetterman I absorbed was that he was another type of Democrat. He spoke about the national party abandoning rural working-class voters after the 2016 election. These sorts within the party are a dying breed. Then, he ran for the U.S. Senate, and he’s just as left-wing and nutty as Bernie Sanders on a host of issues.
For the national Democratic Party, Fetterman was a mayor of a rural municipality. He was progressive and did not hold the snobby personality that most Democrats embody. His being different, however, did not stop some national Democrats from getting heartburn over his primary win. Still, his Braddock mayoralty is also an issue, though his health problems overshadow it.
Zito spoke to multiple residents, some of whom chuckle when they hear stories about Fetterman being the revivalist of the borough. They pointed out that there’s been no job creation and that Fetterman wasn’t precisely the “doer” portrayed in the press. Even the community gardens are in a state of disrepair. Fetterman being supported by his wealthy parents also amused some residents, but others here couldn't care less. The salary for being the mayor of Braddock is only $150/month. It’s the inauthentic storytelling Fetterman has spoken about regarding his mayoralty that they resent the most (via NY Post):
[Tony] Lundy laughs when he hears Fetterman’s stories.
“Brought it back to what? Life? Come on. Look around you, there ain’t no life here, nothing is rebuilt here, nobody brought anything back, it got worse,” he said of Braddock.
Lundy said he wished the Fetterman legend was true. “I really do, but you can’t put this back together, and it is insulting to those who live here to tell us that we are better off because of him.”
Mary Carey has been deeply involved in the community her entire adult life as the culture & information facilitator at the Braddock Carnegie Library, a job she recently lost due to cutbacks. She said she bears no ill will toward the former mayor, who still lives here, but she takes issue with his narrative that he made the borough better.
“Job creation, what job creation? You mean the Family Dollar Store over there?” she said, pointing to the discount variety store on the vacant street.
Carey praised Fetterman’s wife, Gisele, for her presence in the town but said even the community gardens that received a lot of press have fallen on hard times.
Meanwhile, records show he skipped at least 53 borough council meetings after his first three years in office, peaking at 11 no-shows in 2011 and nine in 2015, according to borough records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Fetterman has also faced sharp criticism for being an advocate for Pennsylvania’s public schools while failing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes on time to the Woodland Hills School District. The school district placed more than 30 tax liens against Fetterman for unpaid property taxes from 2006 to 2019 and sued him twice. He took six years to pay them off.
No one in Braddock begrudges Fetterman for coming from wealth, or that his parents paid his salary until he was 49 years old. After all, being mayor pays just $150 a month. What they mind is him pretending to be something he is not: a doer.
It certainly doesn’t paint Fetterman in a good light. However, his soft-on-crime agenda is more alarming to voters in the state, where the vaunted Philly suburbs, which decide how elections go in the state, could be in play, thanks to Joe Biden’s failing agenda and the rise in violent crime.