Former Democratic US Senate candidate John Fetterman is reportedly the latest figure eyeing a run against Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in next year’s primary, sources have told City&State PA.
Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, a tiny borough in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, made headlines for his spirited 2016 Senate primary run on a progressive platform. Despite a shoestring budget and monied Democratic rivals like former state environmental secretary and party favorite Katie McGinty, Fetterman scored some 307,000 votes – about 20 percent of the vote – in his attempt to become the party’s challenger to GOP incumbent Pat Toomey.
His relative success and populist messaging later won him the support from regional heavyweights like former Gov. Ed Rendell – McGinty's own former campaign chair – but Fetterman has otherwise kept a low profile since.
Although he did not respond to a press inquiry for comment, a credible source said the mayor has approached prominent state Democrats about his interest in running against Stack.
The sartorially adroit lieutenant governor has been embroiled in an investigation into allegations of staff abuse and a scandal about his state expenses. The crippling press has already drawn challengers like Chester Commissioner Kathi Cozzone and tech specialist Aryanna Berringer, and fueled speculation that Stack may not stand for reelection.
However, several sources said rumors about a Fetterman run began percolating months before Stack’s high-profile troubles.
After the 2016 PA Society gala, gossip was circulating that Stack had made a disparaging comment about Gov. Tom Wolf and that some party stalwarts, like Rendell, were quietly exploring the feasibility of drafting a replacement.
Reached at the time by City&State PA, the former governor denied any involvement but took the occasion to heap praise on Fetterman, whom he viewed as a sort of Democratic response to the populist rhetoric spouted by Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
“John is the archetype of a Trump-Democratic voter, except that he has a master’s from Harvard. We should be using candidates like John in Pennsylvania all the time,” he said late last year. “I love John Fetterman. Of course, only Gov. Wolf can choose who to back for lieutenant governor.”
This week, Rendell again denied knowledge of Fetterman’s recent activity but liked his odds in a fight against Stack.
“If he crossed the Rubicon, he would definitely have called me. I had a little affair with him in 2016. I talked to him that fall, although I didn’t have lieutenant governor in mind,” he said. “I don’t know if these new rumors are true, but he’d be a hell of a candidate. He got 20 percent of the vote by spending $60,000 in the Senate primary. Who knows what Mike Stack is going to do, anyway?”