May 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

John Fetterman wins Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary

John Fetterman. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Days after announcing he suffered a stroke, progressive Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, besting moderate U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, per the AP.

Why it matters: Fetterman's unconventional political style and progressive pitch, which included support for the legalization of recreational marijuana and opposition to the filibuster, won the backing of voters in the deeply purple swing state, even as party leaders did not back him.

  • Fetterman also campaigned as a foil to centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), pledging to “always be that 51st vote” on Democratic measures.
  • Despite facing credible opponents in Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, Fetterman consistently led the polls by double digits throughout the race.
  • The race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is one of the most closely watched in the nation and presents Democrats with a prime opportunity to flip a seat in the evenly-divided Senate.

The big picture: The race is just one of several primary battles across the country being waged between moderate or establishment Democrats and more progressive ones.

Catch up quick: Fetterman, who first gained national attention as the mayor of the Pittsburgh suburb of Braddock, was the front-runner from the start, spurred by a sizable fundraising advantage.

  • He previously ran for the seat in 2016, finishing third in the Democratic primary, before unseating incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in 2018.
  • Fetterman suffered a stroke and was hospitalized over the weekend, but said he "didn’t suffer any cognitive damage" and would make a full recovery.
  • Doctors implanted a pacemaker with a defibrillator on Tuesday, Fetterman tweeted.
  • "It should be a short procedure that will help protect his heart and address the underlying cause of his stroke, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), by regulating his heart rate and rhythm," his campaign said ahead of the procedure.

What's next: He'll likely continue to face questions surrounding a 2013 incident in which he pursued and pulled a shotgun on a Black jogger that he wrongfully believed had been involved in a shooting.

Go deeper