Fetterman says he wants to tackle national issues as Senate campaign comes to Freeport |

Fetterman says he wants to tackle national issues as Senate campaign comes to Freeport

Tye Cypher | For Trib Total Media
Braddock mayor and Senate candidate John Fetterman, left, shakes hands with Freeport mayor Jim Swartz during a meet and greet at Wolfie’s Pizza Hearth in Freeport on Sunday, September 27, 2015.
Tye Cypher | For Trib Total Media
Braddock mayor and Senate candidate John Fetterman, center, talks business restoration with Freeport, Leechburg, Apollo Group members John Mazurowski, left, and Rob Svitek during a meet and greet at Wolfie’s Pizza Hearth in Freeport on Sunday, September 27, 2015.

During a campaign stop in Freeport Sunday, U.S. Senate candidate and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman said he wants to tackle big issues such as inequality, immigration and educational opportunities to help small towns across the state.

“The only reason to run for higher office is to have a greater impact on the issues that I care about, like inequality, like trade; and as a small town mayor, all I can do is get angry about that, whereas running for an office like the Senate, you have the ability to actually take on these kinds of issues, whether it's immigration, climate change or our drug policy, said Fetterman, 46. “Being able to work on these kinds of issues is why I'm doing it.”

Fetterman is challenging former Congressman Joe Sestak of Delaware County and Katie McGinty of suburban Philadelphia for the Democratic nomination. The winner will face Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Lehigh Valley.

Since moving to Braddock, a poor community east of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, in 2001 and becoming mayor in 2005, he's strived, and had success, in helping to revitalize the community.

He wants to replicate that work on a larger scale by taking his message to Washington, he said.

“His progress for Braddock, all you have to do is look at the town,” said Rick Schafer, 29, of Ford City. “Any man that would go there to try to recover that town, it speaks majorly about that man.”

Supporters who attended the campaign event at Wolfie's Pizza on Fifth Street in Freeport said Fetterman's common sense attitude and non-traditional look appeal to them. Fetterman, who is tall and tattooed, with a shaved head, wore his typical black work shirt, cargo shorts and tennis shoes.

“He's on our level,” said Todd Barbiaux, vice president of the United Steel Workers Union Local 1196 at ATI Brackenridge. “He supports the blue collar worker and he supports the union. He's just the kind of leadership that we need.”

Fetterman said as a resident of a former booming steel town living across the street from the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, he recognizes the importance of unions and good local jobs. He planned to visit the workers on the picket line at ATI in Brackenridge. About 2,200 ATI Flat-Rolled Products workers at 13 plants have been locked out since Aug. 15.

“I've never met a union guy who drives a Maserati and has a vacation home down in Hilton Head,” he said. “These men and women just want a basic, quality middle-class existence.”

He said if Washington leaders would have valued working-class jobs in the 1970s and 1980s like they did financial sector jobs during the 2008-09 recession, the state of the steel industry might be much different than it is today.

“What would my town look like? What would this whole region look like?” Fetterman said.

Deb Whiteman, 55, of North Buffalo and her husband, Clark, came out to learn more about Fetterman as they research all the candidates for U.S. Senate.

“I liked what he said and the way he feels toward his community,” Deb Whiteman said. “I think he'll be good for us if he gets in there.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or [email protected].

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