John Fetterman is running to fill the open seat of retiring Republican senator Pat Toomey in one of the country’s most significant races in 2022.
John, who has lived his whole life in Pennsylvania, is raising his family in Braddock, a former steel town, where he was elected mayor in 2005. In 13 years as mayor, John helped rebuild the community, creating jobs, getting youth engaged, and bringing creative urban policy solutions to Braddock. The town now has a community center, urban gardens, and a free store run by John’s wife, Gisele, an immigrant from Brazil who came to the U.S. when she was nine years old.
In 2018, John ran to be Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor and dominated across the commonwealth, winning a five-candidate Democratic primary and a commanding victory in the general election. As Lieutenant Governor, John has made his office a bully pulpit, advocating for economic justice and criminal justice reform. He went on a listening tour of all 67 counties, something no sitting lieutenant governor had ever done, and engaged with Pennsylvanians about legalizing marijuana. Following John’s final report and recommendations, the governor announced his support for legalization.
John was born in East Reading to teenage parents who were just starting out on their own. His father worked nights to put himself through Albright College. Following in his father’s footsteps, John also went to Albright, and played offensive tackle on the football team. After graduation, John threw himself into the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. He mentored an 8-year-old boy who had recently lost his father to AIDS and whose mother was also battling the disease. Before she passed away, John promised that he would continue to look out for her son and make sure that he graduated from college. Fifteen years later, John’s mentee graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.
In his campaign for the Senate, John admits he does not look like a typical politician, and that he doesn’t look like a typical person either. But John knows Pennsylvanians, their values, their concerns, and their aspirations. He pledges to fight for every small town across the state, and for people who feel left behind. And he decries “decisions made for us by people who don’t know us … and that’s exactly who we’re running against.”
John’s opponent is multimillionaire Republican Mehmet Oz, the former talk show host and TV doctor known for hawking questionable health remedies. “He has a long history of dispensing dubious medical advice on his daytime show and on Fox News … he promoted chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in more than 25 appearances on Fox … “ (New York Times). Oz’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine in 2020 grabbed Trump’s attention and contributed to misinformation about the virus in the early days of the Covid pandemic.
Oz’s touting of bogus science was not the first time he embraced pseudo science. In 2014, the New York Times reported on Oz’s testimony before a Senate committee over claims he made about weight-loss pills. Claire McCaskill, then a Democratic senator from Missouri, asked if he believed the claims he made about green coffee beans being magic: “Oz admitted to the senators that his claims often don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact. A study he had cited about green-coffee bean extract was later retracted and described by federal regulators as ‘hopelessly flawed’. The supplier of the extract paid $3.5 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission.” (New York Times). Commentators cite these cases as reasons Oz has been referred to as a “snake oil salesman”.
Disdain for Oz also comes from his peers in the medical profession. “A group of 10 doctors sought his firing from Columbia University’s medical faculty in 2015, arguing that he had ‘repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.’” (New York Times, 2021)
Oz has received an ‘AQ’ rating from the NRA for his support of the Second Amendment. Oz stated: “I am proud to receive the highest rating from the NRA for candidates without a voting record. President Trump endorsed me because I will never back down from the fight to protect our Second Amendment rights. In Washington, I will persevere as a bold voice for the Second Amendment while standing up against federal efforts to take away our constitutional rights, and fighting for freedom alongside gun owners and sportsmen in Pennsylvania.”
John’s comments about the NRA stand in stark contrast: “The grip of the NRA is so suffocating in Washington that politicians are too afraid of the gun lobby to pass even the most sensible reforms, like universal background checks.” John has an NRA rating of 0%. After the killings in Uvalde, John made the following statement: “Enough is enough. It’s long past time for Congress to act. If I’m your next U.S. Senator, I would support common-sense reform like universal background checks for all gun sales and a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high capacity magazines."
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Oz was a guest on the Sean Hannity show on Fox, and commented on what Americans could do about the nationwide shutdown. Oz said: “First, we need our mojo back. Let’s start with things that are really critical to the nation where we think we might be able to open without getting into a lot of trouble. I tell ya, schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3%, in terms of total mortality. Any, you know, any life is a life lost, but…that might be a trade-off some folks would consider.”
A longtime resident of New Jersey, Oz began voting absentee in Pennsylvania in 2021, registered to his in-laws’ address in suburban Philadelphia; the state’s open U.S. Senate seat was already in his sights. He is a rich Republican who moved to Pennsylvania so he could quickly jump into its Senate race.
John has pounded Oz for not being from Pennsylvania. John tweeted: Dr. Oz is a carpetbagger who barely won his own primary. He came over from his New Jersey mansion to OUR state.” Less than 24 hours after Oz became the nominee, John’s campaign started selling bumper stickers reading “Dr. Oz for NJ.” John has also tweeted out a photo showing Oz bent down to kiss his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Oz’s dual citizenship in the U.S. and Turkey has also raised concerns. He lied in a Washington Post interview, claiming he had “never been politically involved in Turkey in any capacity.” In fact, Oz voted in the 2018 election in Turkey. When pressed, Oz vows to renounce his dual citizenship if he wins the general election in November. In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Josh Rogin wrote: “... never before has our country experienced a senator who has dual citizenship, served in a foreign military, and maintains deep ties to the other nation where he holds citizenship — one where the leader is notorious for punishing those who cross him. Mehmet Oz … has myriad connections to Turkey and the world of its autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that are causing concern in Washington and beyond.”
According to ABC News, Oz’s financial records show he owns “several hundreds of thousands of dollars” in Turkish real estate and had signed a “lucrative” endorsement deal with the country’s national airline ad here. In addition, Oz has incorporated into his campaign the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election that Trump lost was riddled with fraud. “I have discussed it with President Trump and we cannot move on,” Oz said. “We have to be serious about what happened in 2020.”
Writing in The Atlantic, Russell Berman states: “Oz is, in many ways, the most Trumplike figure to emerge since 2016: an ideologically malleable celebrity who parlayed his personal brand, his wealth, and an outsider’s message into a narrow victory over a crowded primary field. Whereas Trump built his persona on the front pages of New York’s tabloids and then on The Apprentice, Oz started as Oprah’s go-to doctor before landing his own show to dispense (often questionable) medical advice… like the developer turned politician [Trump], Oz ditched his previously liberal views on issues including abortion and gun control in a bid to win over the GOP-primary electorate. (He also adopted Trump’s penchant for exaggeration, at one point tweeting that he had treated “hundreds of thousands of patients” in his career.)”
Planned Parenthood has endorsed John, who has called on fellow Democrats to abolish the filibuster in the Senate in order to codify Roe into law. John said the right to an abortion is "non-negotiable” and “sacred”. He also said: “Abortions will happen whether it’s legal or not, they just won’t be safe if Roe is overturned.” Oz has said that he is anti-abortion, and that Roe was “wrongly decided”.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund has also endorsed John: “Lt. Governor John Fetterman understands the importance of lowering costs for families, fighting for environmental justice for all Pennsylvanians and creating high-paying jobs by growing our clean energy economy in the Commonwealth and across the country … We know he will fight to hold big polluters accountable and prioritize people over profits. The stakes could not be higher for climate and environmental justice.”
This race for Senate in Pennsylvania is one of a handful of races that will decide which party controls the Senate and the potential future of health care, a woman’s right to choose, gun safety laws, taxes and spending, and the Supreme Court. John’s additional priorities would be keeping jobs in his state instead of outsourcing; supporting unions; raising wages, including a higher minimum wage; and fighting the opioid epidemic.
This race will be one of the most expensive races in the country, and it’s going to be close. John can win this race, but he needs our support now.