Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat who had been raising money for a potential U.S. Senate run, officially declared his candidacy Monday.
He’s the first major player to enter the 2022 race to fill the spot of Sen. Pat Toomey, who announced back in October that he would not be seeking reelection. It’s expected to be a hotly contested race that could play a role in determining control of the Senate.
Known for his large stature, tattoos and forgoing suits in favor of casual clothing, Fetterman made his name as the mayor of Braddock, a struggling town in the western part of the state.
He beat out incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in 2018 to become Gov. Tom Wolf’s second-in-command.
Fetterman has become a fixture on cable news shows, and he has also gained popularity on Twitter.
Since expressing interest in the race last month, Fetterman’s exploratory committee has generated $1.3 million in donations from a total of 35,000 people, according to his campaign.
His representatives cast him as a candidate who can appeal to people in rural areas and cities, as well as those who have been disenchanted by the Democratic Party.
“It’s not rural versus urban, it’s rural and urban,” he said in a statement. “I’m going to fight not for one part of Pennsylvania, not for one party of Pennsylvania, but for one Pennsylvania.”
Fetterman has become a champion for marijuana legalization, and, in his announcement, he also vowed to fight for union jobs, healthcare as a human right, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental justice issues and criminal justice reform.
“I believe that every community and every county in Pennsylvania is worth fighting for,” he said. “I will never stop fighting for these core values and these communities, just as I have for the last 20 years.”
Endorsements began trickling in hours after Fetterman’s announcement, including from a pair of labor unions — United Steelworkers District 10 and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which is based in the Philadelphia area.
Local 1776 President Wendell Young called Fetterman “a leading voice on policies that directly impact our members.”
“From LGBTQ+ rights to his forward thinking on adult-use cannabis, John is steadfast in his commitment to moving Pennsylvania forward in a way that protects the workers of the Commonwealth,” Young added in a statement.
Toomey said in October that he was not running again because he wanted to spend more time at home following a combined 18 years in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
“The reasons that I’ve reached this decision are not political,” Toomey, who has been in the Senate since 2010, said at the time. “They’re personal.”
He explained the timing of his announcement by saying he wanted to be honest with his supporters and give fellow Republicans more time to plot potential campaigns.