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PA-Sen: Fetterman the Crowd Favorite at WPSU Debate (VIDEO)

John Fetterman played to his strengths at a debate on the Penn State University main campus Saturday night, drawing stark contrasts between himself and his opponents for the Democratic nod for U.S. Senate.

Students asked the questions at the WPSU/McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s forum, touching on many of the issues that will be key over the last two weeks of the race.

The candidates started off on similar notes, talking up the need to fix the state’s education funding formula and close the gap between PA’s richest and poorest school districts

“Unfortunately in this state and this country, your zip code often determines your destiny, your socio-economic destiny, and in my community, that’s especially true,” Mayor Fetterman said, emphasizing Braddock’s pre-K programs and the power of a GED. “If you don’t close that achievement gap from [low-income] households, you literally create a tower of inequality in that young person’s educational life.”

2010 Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak said the state should move away from property taxes to fund public schools, while Gov. Tom Wolf’s former chief of staff Katie McGinty said PA must continue to make up for education funding cuts in the previous administration.

McGinty and Fetterman traded a few barbs over the importance of high tech jobs vs. blue-collar jobs in the state’s economy, with McGinty arguing service-sector jobs also make up a large part of the equation.

McGinty used the debate platform to push her fight for equal pay for equal work and raising the minimum wage to $15, while erasing the sub-minimum wage paid to employees who earn a significant portion of their income from tips.

“One of the greatest crises we have in this country is the fact that people are working hard, but they’re not getting paid a decent wage for that hard work,” the former DEP Secretary said. “Hard-working people are the backbone of our communities and our country, and we need to honor that by paying people a decent wage and enabling everyone effectively to be in the workforce.”

Fetterman connected with the notably young audience – though some of the region’s top Democrats, including State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and Centre County Democratic chairman Greg Stewart, were in attendance – capitalizing with the now-common refrain of a “fundamentally rigged economy.”

“The deck is stacked,” Fetterman said. “Did you realize the six Walmart heirs – part of The Lucky Sperm Club – they own the equivalent of what 42% of America owns.”

None of the candidates came out in support of Pres. Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, though Sestak was more measured in his criticism of trade deals. The former Congressman said he believes much of the manufacturing that had been outsourced due to global trade deals would be stateside again soon.

“Manufacturing is about to come home. China, because of its one-child policy, is in a race for time before it is older than Pennsylvania,” Sestak said, giving their economy 30 years until it becomes obsolete.

York-native Fetterman said he is opposed to free trade deals that have left many western PA communities on the brink of financial collapse.

“My region has been decimated by free trade and this idea that ‘if you open it up, it’s all gonna work out great, trust us,’” Fetterman said. “It’s like Lucy pulling the football away every time, and it’s the American worker that ends up flat on its back.”

In the year of the anti-establishment movement, Fetterman is trying to pitch himself as the candidate for voters across the political spectrum. He highlighted his substantial size difference over the incumbent GOP senator (9 inches and 150 pounds) and talked up PA Democratic Chair Marcel Groen’s non-endorsement, as well as Sestak and McGinty’s previous electoral defeats.

“I’m fighting for Pennsylvania’s forgotten communities,” Fetterman said. “And in this state, either you live in one of these communities, you used to live in one of these communities or you still have relatives or your parents living in one of these communities.”

19 Responses

  1. ADV,
    That was well put and I appreciate it. I actually really am a fan of Bernie and his message. My concern comes from some of his supporters that I have seen in action. The idea of something like #NeverHillary is horrible while we are seeing the monsters that she will likely face on the other side. Whoever we end up with our nominee will be a good choice for the country and deserves our support.

    The Fetterman crowd seems to play directly into this toxic group. I don’t think he is a creep like Trump or Cruz, but I have serious questions about whether his background and qualifications. Sestak and McGinty both have the brains and experience. I don’t like Sestak because I think he really blew it in 2010 (when I volunteered a ton of my time for the whole ticket) by not working with the party and I’m scared he will do it again. But my fear about Fetterman is that he has no real government experience and instead runs Braddock with his charity and not through legislation. That does not translate into an effective Senator. But without any money or traction I think he is done anyway.

  2. Bob from Juniata:
    Bob, please don’t take CPA Dem’s comments as reflective of Bernie supporters—I am a Bernie supporter. I am glad CPA Dem may be on Bernie’ side. But, the other millions of supporters of Bernie do not get marching orders from CPA or anyone else. We are diverse. We think on our own. AND, FETTERMAN does not speak for Bernie supporters. IMO, Fetterman latched on to Bernie to get a free ride with Bernie supporters, some of whom are naive as is any supporter of any candidate. Fetterman didn’t pay his taxes it is now being reported. I don’t think Bernie ever abrogated his responsibilities in paying taxes. And, we Bernie supporters do not think we are better than anyone else. We are just average Americans trying to elect an honest, trustworthy, non-corporate- sucking candidate to the political stage to start to make this country a place for all of us—–not just the billionaire class and the politicians who serve the billionaire class. Pretty simple proposition.

  3. Whistleblower-

    Do you really think Captain Queeg is any better?

    Joe is nuttier than squirrel poop.

  4. CPA Dem, 31% of PA Dems last polled would vote Mcginty over Fetterman. So either the Mcginty campaign employs thousands of people or you think a third of the state’s registered Democrats are idiots. Not a very nice sentiment. This is what cracks me up about all you young Bernie lovers. You think you are better than everyone else and that we might as well be republicans for not supporting your godly candidates. Some of us have been around this block kid, it’s about electing people who can win a general and do the job, not people who try and be the kings of the far left.

    And Senator Rutherford B. Cattywampus, I have bought zero houses to give away to poor people, the same number as fetterman since he does not make any money on his own. His parents sound lovely for doing all that, if only their useless son could learn to fill out a bit of paperwork on time.

  5. Bob from Juniata…exactly how many houses have you bought to give away to poor people?

    That’s what I thought.

    Go away now. Thanks for playing.

  6. Up until this I wasn’t sure if I would vote for Fetterman or Sestak. It will be SESTAK. Because now he needs my vote. Emily’s List and dingbat McGinty are twisting this mans words. What a disaster Katie is. This whole administration ticket is on my last nerve! Sestak Zappala/Morganelli. David Diano as much as I value your opinion I can’t risk McDingbat being our Senator.

  7. CPA Dem:
    You are incorrect, sir. I’ve seen 2 debates and met Fet in person 2x. I asked him why he is not for SP. He gave me some gobbledy-gook answer. Fet is not for SP, although he and McG sometimes try to sound as if they are. None of the 3 are, including my favorite, Joe Sestak. At least Joe is honest and hopefully educable on this issue which is the only answer to our privatized, corporate-run health care non-system. Lots of people say SP is the way to go—meaning in 30 years or so. Watch what you hear and look behind the language—-politicians are masters of language—learn to understand their lingo!

  8. Wow Bob, two links to the same story that actually make Fetterman sound pretty awesome! He should make an ad out of this article. Here’s the closing:

    “Many of those liens were satisfied by 2012, and the last were cleared in 2014. North Braddock Mayor Thomas Whyel said he had “no complaints” about the properties. As for Mr. Fetterman, “We get along well.”

    Mr. Fetterman said he bought the North Braddock properties “to help people with home ownership,” which he said is desperately needed in lower-income communities. But “plans floundered because of circumstances that were beyond my control,” including the murder of a resident he hoped would take one of the homes.

    Mr. Fetterman said he has never charged rent to occupants, and county real estate records show he has given away two of the three North Braddock homes. He transferred one in 2010, and last month gave a second, a two-bedroom house he bought for $15,000, to Anthony Bell for $1.

    Mr. Bell said he and Mr. Fetterman met some 15 years ago, when Mr. Bell, now 32, was obtaining a GED through a program Mr. Fetterman coordinated. He credits Mr. Fetterman with helping him turn around his life: “If it wasn’t for him, I would have been a lost kid in the streets. A lot of kids in Braddock would have been lost.” He hasn’t moved in yet — the roof needs work, for one thing — but said Mr. Fetterman “blessed me by giving me this house, and I plan on doing something with it.”

    “There’s a lot of rich and flashy politicians, but he’s not one of them,” said Myasia Cherry, a Braddock resident to whom Mr. Fetterman recently gave nearly $500 to help cover next semester’s tuition at Slippery Rock University. “He’s an angel.” ”

    If you’re going to vote for McGinty over Fetterman, you’re either on McGinty’s payroll or just plain stupid. I’m guessing both in your case.

  9. Senator Rutherford B. Cattywampus and CPA Dem, this would be a non-issue if Fetterman didn’t have an alarming habit of letting these things “fall through the cracks”. Poor attention to detail is not what you want in the highest legislative office.

    If Joe Sestak can manage to handle his taxes and filings while living in two states, you would think his competition to at least handle doing it for one.

  10. ADV-

    Joe hates the rank and file and regularly bad mouths them in private. He hates that he has to curry any favor at all, and just wants to be worshiped.

    But, some of Joe’s supporters mistakenly believe Joe would support single payer.

    They also have NO IDEA that Joe voted to fund the Iraq War without a timetable for withdrawal.

    Yes, he voted to raise the minimum wage, but refused to pay his staff minimum wage.

    Joe ran to the left to win the 2010 primary, and couldn’t pivot back to the center. Toomey beat him. This cycle, Toomey is an incumbent with even more money.

  11. Bob from Juniata…the tax issue is a non-issue, has been dealt with in the past, the taxes are paid, and some of the taxes were never owed. Stop believing every stupid hit piece someone puts out.

  12. Bob from Juniata, Fetterman worked for years setting up computer labs and teaching GED programs. In addition to being Mayor, he runs a non-profit that he could easily take a salary from, but instead forgoes any type of salary and keeps it in the non-profit. That seems like a more honorable thing than McGinty taking million dollar payouts from the industry she supposedly used to regulate. Doesn’t it?

    Regardless that was a terribly inaccurate hit piece. It was settled years ago and the reporter even acknowledges that some of the taxes were never owed in the first place, yet they’re still cited.

    Shame on Fetterman for trying to save buildings and provide affordable housing. I read an article earlier this year that said Fetterman gave them away for $1 to people in need.

  13. David:
    I am aware that none of the candidates are for single payer, so it is not an issue here. Fetterman portrays himself as a Bernie supporter and a liberal, Joe Sestak does not portray himself that way. Sestak is the only candidate ready for prime time and the only one that can defeat Toomey. Plus, Sestak is not propped up by the big-wigs in the Dem Party—a real plus. Joe is with the rank and file and that earns him a LOT of loyalty.

  14. ADV-

    Are you aware that Sestak has consistently opposed single-payer since day one when announced his candidacy in 2006?

    Any Bernie supporters who looked closely at Sestak would not vote for him,

  15. I wonder if PoliticsPA will announce Phila Inquirer’s endorsement of Sestak—every piddling endorsement is always announced for every candidate, and this endorsement, as much as I discount endorsements in general, this one is fairly substantial. Question for Fetterman, who I hope runs for Congress next time….why, if you support Bernie, do you not support single payer Medicare for All??? Only seems logical and consistent.

  16. I watched this and the prior Pittsburgh and Erie debates and Fetterman is hands-down winning them. Katie even tries to steal Fetterman’s lines he has been using from day one. I encourage everyone to watch and judge for themselves.

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