Progressive Democrats notched a big victory over their establishment counterparts in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary Tuesday as an insurgent candidate backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) upset the incumbent lieutenant governor.
John Fetterman, the mayor of a small town outside Pittsburgh, defeated Mike Stack, who led the race in name recognition and fundraising, by nearly 160,000 votes, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In his acceptance speech, Fetterman said he was "overwhelmed" and "humbled" by the opportunity to take his message to all of Pennsylvania.
"I just want to take our message of ‘All places matter’ [statewide]," Fetterman said. "I’m so honored by the people of Pennsylvania to be the nominee for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania."
Fetterman first appeared on the political scene in 2005 when he unseated the incumbent mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, by one vote. At the time, Braddock, like most areas in the industrial rust-belt, was grappling with the effects of globalization and technological advancement. The city's population dropped from over 12,000 in 1960 to just above 2,000 in 2010. Fetterman led efforts to revitalize the city by building new community programs and luring businesses to spur job growth. His initiatives garnered widespread applause and media attention.
During the 2016 presidential primary cycle, Fetterman was an early backer of Sanders' bid for the Democratic nomination. Fetterman, who himself was a 2016 candidate for the United States Senate, crisscrossed the state campaigning for Sanders.
The Vermont senator reciprocated by endorsing Fetterman in his bid for lieutenant governor this cycle. Throughout the primary, Sanders made several high-profile visits to Pennsylvania to campaign on Fetterman's behalf.
Fetterman ran a progressive campaigning emphasizing his support for a $15 minimum wage and single-payer health care. He also promised new strategies for tackling the opioid epidemic, which has ravaged large portions of the state, and castigated Harrisburg–Pennsylvania's capital–for losing touch with "forgotten cities" like Braddock.
The strategy seems to have paid off with Democratic voters as Fetterman ran heavily ahead of his opponents in western and rural Pennsylvania, outpacing his closest rival by nearly 14 points statewide.
Stack, a former state senator from Philadelphia, was dogged by controversy in the race. In April of 2017, Stack and his wife came under fire after several allegations of verbal abuse and mistreatment were reported by members of his security detail and personal staff.
The allegations reportedly exasperated an already tumultuous relationship with Gov. Tom Wolf (D.), who ordered an internal investigation into Stack's behavior. The investigation's report, although never made public, resulted in Wolf publicly revoking Stack's police escort and curtailing the number of staff members provided at the lieutenant governor's tax-payer funded residence.
Stack is the first lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania to lose his bid for re-election since the state changed its law in the mid-1970s to permit the holder of the office to serve two terms.
Fetterman will run on a ticket with Wolf in the general election. The duo will face off against Republican state Senator Scott Wagner and his running mate, real estate executive Jeff Bartos.