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PITTSBURGH — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has won the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania.
The win came two days after Fetterman announced he had suffered a stroke while campaigning but that doctors had told him he had suffered no cognitive damage and would be able to return to the campaign trail. The campaign announced that Fetterman underwent a successful Election Day procedure to have a pacemaker with a defibrillator inserted.
The campaign still held an election night rally, headlined by Fetterman’s wife, Giselle, a fixture at his events. National Democrats see Pennsylvania as the party’s best chance of flipping a U.S. Senate seat this fall.
“Thank you, Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said in a statement. “The fact that so many of you entrusted me with your vote means the world to me, and it’s something I’ll never take for granted. I’m feeling better every day, and I’m going to be back on the campaign trail to thank you all in person soon.”
The 52-year-old Fetterman previously served as the mayor of Braddock, a Pittsburgh suburb. He ran in the 2016 Senate primary as the progressive candidate but finished third before winning the primary for lieutenant governor two years later.
Fetterman gained a higher profile in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when he was a constant presence on cable news and social media rebutting Republican claims of fraud.
Fetterman is also a memorable figure with an atypical look for a politician with a master’s degree from Harvard: He is tall, bald, goateed, tattooed and chooses to wear gym shorts and hoodies whenever possible. When he entered the race in February 2021, he had immediate success in fundraising, bringing in millions from a grassroots network. By the time his primary rival, Rep. Conor Lamb, had entered the race in August, Fetterman had established a lead that carried him through to May.
Part of Fetterman’s political strategy has been to visit every county in the state, including rural areas where Democrats typically lose by 3-1 margins. While there, he doesn’t shy away from espousing support for progressive priorities: He wants to eliminate the legislative filibuster in the Senate (centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a foil Fetterman likes to invoke), has made marijuana legalization a top priority and is a prominent supporter of unions as well as LGBTQ and abortion rights.
Fetterman has been criticized for missing events at Black churches and a 2013 incident with a Black jogger but he earned the endorsement of the Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest Black newspaper in the country, which wrote he “has demonstrated through his campaign that he is the candidate with the broadest appeal across the state and is the best candidate to represent the Democratic Party’s agenda.”
That was one of the few formal endorsements he earned, with most elected officials who opted to support a candidate going for Lamb. Following the primary loss, the congressman said he was throwing his support behind Fetterman.
"Our entire democracy is on the line in November," Lamb said in a statement. "Democrats need to be unequivocally united in our defense of this democracy, and we will be. John’s vote in the Senate is essential to protect this democracy, and he will have my vote in November. I will do everything I can to help Democrats win."