When I first met John Fetterman, the six-foot, eight-inch, heavily tattooed mayor of Braddock, Pa. and candidate for U.S. Senate, I asked if he was going to have to change his act a bit to run statewide – say, put on a suit.
Nope, he said. That wouldn’t be him, and he was going to stay true to himself.
So I wondered if he would attend Pennsylvania Society weekend, the December event where Pennsylvania’s political class descends on New York for three days of receptions, cocktail parties, and fundraisers. Formal wear is recommended for some events. And, I wondered, would Fetterman appear in his classic work shirt attire.
I spent some time at Pennsylvania Society this weekend, the answers were yes, and yes.
I saw Fetterman (he’s hard to miss) in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria in his work shirt, greeting people and obliging those who wanted selfies. I asked how he found the whole thing.
“I’m kind of a fish out of water here, but the people have been lovely,” he said. ” I’ve been most relieved that that I haven’t been stopped by hotel security yet.”
Why was he here? I asked.
“I’m here because the Pennsylvania political universe is here, and we’re running in a statewide race, so we get a chance to talk to people and get the message out,” he said. “Everyone’s here in one space, and I have to take advantage of that.”
When somebody asked about his attire, he unbuttoned his shirt and noted that he had a “tuxedo shirt” underneath – a T-shirt with a tuxedo pattern on it “in the event we have a black-tie event I can’t get into.”
He also noted his every utterance was being video-taped by a young man standing a few feet away. Fetterman said he was from a conservative group called America Rising. “His name is John. He’s a nice kid,” Fetterman said.
I asked John what he was up to. He said he couldn’t speak the media, but gave me an email address, which connected me with Amelia Chasse of America Rising. She confirmed they were tracking Fetterman and the other two Democratic Senate candidates, “to ensure Democrats are held accountable for their words and actions.”
Speaking of the other candidates in the Democratic primary, former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty was working the receptions, shaking hands and being seen.
The other candidate, former Navy Admiral and former Congressman Joe Sestak wasn’t there. He was in Harrisburg, handing out food and blankets to those facing hardship while the dispute over the state budget remains unresolved. Nice touch. Not too much point in him heading to New York anyway, since party leaders are still sore at him for running for Senate against Arlen Specter six years ago.
I also ran into the man those three Democrats are trying to unseat, incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey. He said he’d enjoyed meeting Fetterman.
I wanted to know how it might affect Toomey if he had to run in a general election next year with Donald Trump atop the Republican ballot. He wouldn’t bite.
“We’re going to run our own race,” Toomey said. “I think it’s very unlikely he will be on the ballot I’m on.”
Former Governor Ed Rendell, who was honored at the Pennsyvlvania Society dinner, was telling people he’s rooting for Trump to get the nomination. As a staunch Democrat, Rendell said a Donald Trump-Ted Cruz Republican ticket would be the best thing that could happen.