Democrat John Fetterman won Pennsylvania’s pivotal race for U.S. Senate, flipping a Republican-held seat as he recovered from a stroke during the bare-knuckled campaign and giving Democrats hope they can retain control of the closely divided chamber to boost President Joe Biden’s agenda for two more years.
John Fetterman addressed supporters in western Pennsylvania late Wednesday morning as he is projected to be the winner in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, defeating Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“And that’s exactly what happened,” Fetterman, 53, told a cheering crowd early Wednesday at a concert venue in Pittsburgh. “We jammed them up. We held the line. I never expected that we would turn these red counties blue, but we did what we needed to do and we had that conversation across every one of those counties.”
Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s towering and plainspoken lieutenant governor, who became a progressive hero as mayor of a downtrodden steel town, defeated Dr. Mehmet Oz, the surgeon-turned-TV celebrity who had just moved to the presidential battleground state to run for Senate.
Fetterman credited his “every county, every vote” campaign strategy, in which the tattooed and hoodie-wearing candidate sought to bring the Democratic Party back to predominantly white working-class areas that have increasingly rejected it, even as he ran on a progressive platform.
Fetterman spent much of the campaign fending off attacks by Oz that questioned whether he was honest about the stroke’s effects and was fit to serve.
He vowed to be the Democrats’ “51st vote” to pass foundational legislation to protect rights to abortion, health care, same-sex marriage, unions and voting, as well as to raise the minimum wage.
Fetterman has likened his May 13 stroke which left him unable to speak fluidly and quickly process spoken conversation into meaning, a common effect called auditory processing disorder, to getting knocked down and adopted that as a campaign mission.
He ran for “anyone that ever got knocked down that got back up,” he told the crowd. “This race is for the future of every community across Pennsylvania, for every small town or person that felt left behind, for every job that has been lost, for every factory that was ever closed and for every person that worked hard but never gets ahead.”
Fetterman spoke smoothly early Wednesday but required closed captioning during media interviews and, two weeks ago, during the lone debate between the men. He turned in a rocky performance in which he struggled to complete sentences, jumbled words and fueled concern inside his party that it had doomed the race.
To underscore the importance of the race, Biden campaigned in Pennsylvania for Fetterman three times in the final three weeks, while former President Donald Trump came in, as well, to hold a rally for Oz, his endorsed candidate.
In brief remarks to his election night party crowd at a fitness center in suburban Philadelphia, Oz thanked supporters and exuded optimism.
“When all the ballots are counted, we believe we will win this race,” Oz told the jubilant crowd late Tuesday. He had not conceded as of early Wednesday.