Senate candidate John Fetterman ‘grateful’ for returning to Pennsylvania Senate race

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ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman acknowledged he was lucky to be alive as he officially returned to the campaign trail on Friday, more than 90 days after the Democrat suffered a stroke that threatened his life and political prospects in one of the nation’s top Senate contests.

Fetterman spoke for nearly 11 minutes, at times hesitantly, as he addressed several hundred voters packed into a convention center on the shores of Lake Erie. It was the only public gathering planned by the 52-year-old lieutenant governor this month as he gradually ramps up his public schedule.

“Tonight, for me, is about being grateful — just grateful,” said Fetterman, who stood tall for the duration of his remarks. “Three months ago, my life could have ended. That’s the truth.”

He said he might not have survived his stroke if he had lived in rural Elk County rather than suburban Pittsburgh, where it was just 20 minutes from a center major stroke when his wife noticed something was wrong.

“Gisele saved my life,” he said, dressed in his usual hoodie and jeans.

Fetterman’s return marks a significant development in the race to fill incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s seat. The Pennsylvania contest offers Democrats perhaps their best national pickup opportunity as the two parties battle for control of the Senate in November’s midterm elections. The chamber is now split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving Democrats the narrowest majority with her deciding vote.

Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, a famed heart surgeon backed by former President Donald Trump, spoke out against Fetterman’s prolonged public absence throughout the summer.

Oz posted a fake “Have you seen this person?” posted online last month. He needled Fetterman again on Friday in an interview with Newsmax.

“We are doing very well, campaigning across the Commonwealth, which is a far cry from my opponent, who refuses to leave home,” Oz charged.

Fetterman’s physical appearance is central to his non-traditional political brand.

At 6ft 9in, he sports a shaved head and tattooed arms. He’s also an unapologetic working-class progressive who supports the legalization of marijuana, the abolition of senatorial filibuster, and the establishment of a national health insurance program for all – “Medicare for all”. in progressive campaign jargon.

Fetterman’s health has been a dominant issue in the Senate contest since the days leading up to the May 17 primary, when his campaign revealed he had suffered a stroke. He had to undergo surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator and later revealed that he also suffered from a serious heart condition.

His doctor offered a direct letter in early June detailing Fetterman’s decision not to take prescribed medication or see a doctor for several years after a health scare in 2017.

“If he does what I tell him, and I believe he takes his recovery and his health very seriously this time around, he should be able to campaign and serve in the US Senate with no problem,” Dr. Ramesh Chandra said. . wrote.

Fetterman now takes his medication as prescribed, follows a low-sodium diet and walks 3 to 5 miles most days, campaign spokesman Joe Calvello said, “He’s following doctor’s orders.”

On Friday night, Fetterman spoke hesitantly throughout his remarks and fumbled his words at times. Calvello noted that Fetterman still had mild speech and hearing issues as he returned to full health.

“He’ll miss a word here or there when he’s talking sometimes, or maybe in a crowded room he’ll miss hearing a word,” he said. “On top of that, he’s rock solid.”

The high-profile senatorial contest played out on television and social media despite Fetterman’s extended absence.

Fetterman, who has dominated Oz in fundraising, has been running TV ads promoting his candidacy for months. The Democrat also drew millions of views from creative social media posts, including one featuring a character from the infamous MTV show “Jersey Shore” telling Oz to come home. Oz is a former resident of New Jersey, and this has been a major issue throughout the campaign.

“He’s a resident of New Jersey. He doesn’t live here. He doesn’t concern us. He doesn’t care about us,” Fetterman said.

He concluded his remarks as he had opened them – with gratitude.

“Three months ago, I might not have made it. But now I’m standing right here in Erie,” he said as the crowd erupted.

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