John Fetterman will canvass in Philadelphia this weekend with two members of the Democratic Socialists of America, including a state lawmaker who wants to "increase the number of socialists in elected office."
The Pennsylvania Senate hopeful is launching a voter drive effort on Sunday with state representative Elizabeth Fiedler and state senator Nikil Saval, according to an email from his campaign. Fiedler and Saval were members of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist group in the country. As a member, Fiedler in 2019 expressed solidarity with teachers in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Chicago who led successful work strikes. Saval, a former magazine editor, touted socialism in a recent interview and expressed optimism that more socialists will win elected office. Both also have ties to a left-wing activist group in Philadelphia that supports the movement to defund police departments.
It’s the latest example of Fetterman campaigning with left-wing activists even as he publicly downplays his own progressive views. Fetterman, whose lead over Republican Mehmet Oz has narrowed dramatically in the last few weeks, recently walked back his support for the decriminalization of all drugs. He disavowed a former campaign official he appointed to serve on the Board of Pardons following a Washington Free Beacon report that she is a "friend" and supporter of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. He has also insisted that he never supported the movement to defund police.
"It was always absurd to defund the police," he said this week. "From my own experience I’d say, anytime you have fewer police, you're going to have more crime."
But Fetterman has still aligned himself with many activists who do support the controversial movement. He held a rally on September 11 with a pro-abortion activist who supports defunding police. He campaigned in Philadelphia last month with three city council members who have expressed support for the cause.
Saval and Fiedler are both affiliated with Reclaim Philadelphia, a group formed by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) that also supports the defund movement. The organization in 2020 pushed to defund the Philadelphia police department, saying that much of its funding came from money "stolen from communities." In a bid for the anti-police group’s endorsement in 2018, Fetterman said he opposed "tough on crime" policies, including cash bail. Saval cofounded Reclaim Philadelphia. Fiedler’s husband is a member of the organization.
Oz and his Republican allies have released an onslaught of ads highlighting Fetterman’s push for criminal justice reform as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor. Fetterman, who chairs the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, has said he used the position as a "bully pulpit" to enact progressive criminal justice policies. On the Board of Pardons, he has voted to free multiple first-degree murderers, often over the wishes of their victims’ families.