Updated 11:49 p.m.
More than a year after his failed U.S. Senate bid thrust him onto the American political stage, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman succeeded in winning a statewide election, this time to represent the Democratic Party in the race for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor in November.
Fetterman won today’s primary against four fellow Democrats all vying to run alongside Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in the upcoming general election. He declared his win at 10:25 p.m. in Braddock.
Meanwhile, Jeff Bartos, a real estate and contracting company founder and Berks County native, won the statewide primary election to run as Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, per The New York Times.
Bartos and Scott Wagner, who clinched the GOP nod for governor tonight, had promised to team up come the general election, despite the fact that in Pennsylvania, LG candidates run separately from gubernatorial candidates in the primaries.
Fetterman’s opponents included incumbent Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack; Nina Ahmad, a former aide to Philly Mayor Jim Kenney; Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone; and Ray Sosa, a banker and insurance agent from Montgomery County.
Stack sought reelection without Wolf’s endorsement. This after a high-profile falling out between the two that also coincided with publicized allegations of Stack’s mistreatment of staff and the Democratic Party’s closeted push to find his replacement. That push quickly landed on Fetterman — a Rust Belt populist who’s remained both deeply critical of president Trump and empathetic toward Trump voters and who’s remained popular with elements of the Democratic base.
Wolf endorsed no one in the LG race, choosing instead to stay out of the fray and focused on his own reelection hopes. Fetterman, who is now officially a part of the governor’s plan for a second term, did much the same, avoiding making this race about Stack and the dysfunction between him and the governor.
“I look forward to helping … Gov. Wolf is going to do just fine, and I look forward to being his partner on the ticket,” Fetterman said tonight.
Asked if he’d heard from the governor, Fetterman demurred. “I can’t talk about that right now.”
Since declaring his candidacy for lieutenant governor in November after months of leaks and speculation, Fetterman has promised an alternative approach to the lieutenant governorship and a more nimble and mobile version of the office and role.
He also embarked on a relentless and exhaustive road tour of Pennsylvania — his wife Gisele estimates they’ve covered 45,000 miles in a matter of months — that was religiously chronicled on his social media accounts.
Fetterman has said he plans to maintain a base of operations in Braddock, some three hours from Harrisburg. Fetterman has also said he’ll refuse the lieutenant governor’s mansion if elected.) Critics call the LG role wasteful, ineffective and overdue for an overhaul.
Katy Albert and Zach Shoff of Friendship both voted for Fetterman today, each citing parallels between Fetterman and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Fetterman this month after failing to do so when Fetterman ran for U.S. Senate in 2016.
Albert said she believed a so-called blue wave is possible with candidates like Fetterman and Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb who pulled off a surprise victory in a Pittsburgh-area special election in March.
Shannon Macken of Shadyside did not vote for Fetterman and instead voted for Nina Ahmad, a former aide to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
“I read an article about him pulling a gun on someone,” Macken explained of Fetterman and an incident in 2013 that was the subject of media coverage and a whisper campaign during Fetterman’s subsequent Senate campaign.
‘largely a limited role’
If the Republican ticket proves victorious in November, the LG seat will be Bartos’ first go at public office. He won today’s primary against three opponents:
- Kathleen Coder, an Allegheny County small business owner
- Peg Luksik, a Philly native and education advocate
- Diana Irey Vaughan, an Eighty Four, Pa. resident who is passionate about fiscal and prison reform.
Bartos has previously worked as a senior executive at Toll Brothers, Inc. and Mark Group, Inc. He’s has served on the board of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
On his campaign website, Bartos declared campaign priorities including drafting new economic policies and making home ownership, health care and education more affordable. The LG candidate didn’t give any hints as to how he’d implement these changes.
If elected with Wolf in the fall, Fetterman has said he hopes to use the position as a platform to further policy positions he’s taken in runs for mayor of Braddock, U.S. Senate and now statewide office. Fetterman supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, a position Gov. Wolf has yet to take up himself, and falls to the left of Wolf on a handful of issues. It remains to be seen if this combination will help unify a Democratic Party still very much consumed by directional disputes in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
“The lieutenant governorship is largely a limited role, but at the end of the day I think it can be turned into a progressive bully pulpit,” Fetterman told The Incline at the beginning of his LG campaign.
“Health coverage for millions of Pennsylvanians is at risk, and women’s rights are under attack. Too many communities are poisoned by polluters, and too many workers are stuck trying to raise a family on a $7.25 minimum wage. This is why I’m running for lieutenant governor. So I can take on these challenges for all Pennsylvanians.”
But Fetterman has not been without his critics in the Democratic Party, including some who feel he’s moved away from harder-left positions on issues like the environment.
“The only candidate you’re going to agree on 100 percent is yourself,” Fetterman told a Pittsburgh crowd in January. “Unless your name is on the ballot, you’re always going to have an imperfect choice in front of you.”
Now, Fetterman’s name will help determine which party controls the executive branch in Harrisburg for the next four years, while the Wolf-Fetterman ticket may determine how similar races are approached by the Democratic Party going forward.
Looking ahead to the race against Wagner and Bartos, Fetterman said, “We know what they’re about, and we know we stand in direct opposition to everything they stand for and that’s what this campaign is going to be about — pushing back against that and defeating that. I’m confident we have a great governor in Wolf and a great message.”
Correction: Katy Albert’s name has been corrected.