John Fetterman — the media-savvy political battering ram who serves as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor — announced on Monday that he is running in 2022 for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican incumbent Pat Toomey.
The 6’8” former mayor of Braddock, Pa., a struggling postindustrial town near Pittsburgh, is positioning himself as the rarest of figures in 21st American politics — a populist Democrat hoping to unite the party’s left wing with Rust Belt voters who backed former President Donald J. Trump.
The announcement video posted on his Twitter page weaves together clips of appearances on liberal mainstays like “The Colbert Report” with images of a set-jawed Mr. Fetterman stomping through the gritty streets of small town Pennsylvania in work boots.
“These places across Pennsylvania feel left behind, they don’t feel part of the conversation,” Mr. Fetterman, 51, said in his voice-over. “That’s why Donald Trump went to these small counties, and held these big rallies. We cannot afford to take any vote for granted.”
At the same time, Mr. Fetterman is not shying away from his political positions — marijuana legalization, expanded LGBTQ rights, support for some elements of the Green New Deal (sans the fracking ban) and a minimum-wage increase — that place him comfortably in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Mr. Fetterman’s announcement was long expected in a race that is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in an especially consequential midterm election. He has already raised about $1.4 million, and secured the support of several unions.
Other possible Democratic rivals include two members of Congress, Rep. Conor Lamb and Rep. Brendan Boyle, along with State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Ex-Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite and former federal prosecutor William McSwain are among possible entrants in what is expected to be a crowded Republican field.
This is not the first time Mr. Fetterman has sought Mr. Toomey’s seat. In 2014, he finished a distant third behind the veteran state official Katie McGinty, who was subsequently defeated by Mr. Toomey.
After running successfully for the state’s number-two post in 2018, Mr. Fetterman established himself as one of Mr. Trump’s most persistent and colorful critics.
Case in point: In December, he demanded Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, make good on his promise to pay $1 million for any cases of voter fraud discovered in the country, after Pennsylvania officials announced that a Trump supporter voted illegally.
Mr. Patrick has not paid up.