ERIE, Dad. — Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the Pennsylvania Senate, returned to the campaign trail Friday night for his first major public event since suffering a stroke in mid-May.
Mr. Fetterman was by turns emotional and brash as he addressed an exuberant crowd. Among those in attendance were both elderly voters — including at least two who said they voted for Donald J. Trump in 2016 — and a young woman in a glittering sash, who said she had chosen to spend her 19th birthday on his birthday. campaign meeting .
Mr. Fetterman acknowledged the health anxieties he faced, while also calling his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the famous doctor, butchered and promised to fight for “every province, every vote”.
“Tomorrow will be three months — three months ago my life could have ended,” said Mr Fetterman, speaking for about 11 minutes and then greeting some of those in attendance. At another point, his voice seemed to break as he added, “I’m so grateful — and I’m so lucky. So thank you for being here.”
The rally in Erie, Pennsylvania — in a swing county in what is arguably the nation’s ultimate swing state — was a key moment in a race that could determine control of the Senate. It was Mr. Fetterman’s first official personal campaign event of the general election, as he goes up against Dr. Oz, who peeped through the Republican primaries with the approval of former President Donald J. Trump.
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Mr. Fetterman’s stroke occurred just days before the Democratic primary in May, and in early June his doctor said he also had a serious heart condition. The candidate, who said he “nearly passed away”, promised to spend time on recovery. The public initially heard little from him, except in short video clips.
In recent weeks, Mr. Fetterman has started popping up, greeting volunteersgiving a few local interviews and attending fundraisers and events, including of senators and other hopeful senators. Democrats in the state are eager to see him return to more public appearances. Joe Calvello, a spokesperson for Mr. Fetterman, said the “pace will be stepped up” as the candidate continues to raise funds and plans events such as meet-and-greets this month.
Several people who have spoken to or heard him speak in recent weeks have described him as energetic and eager to return to the campaign trail, although some said in interviews last month that it was also apparent when he reached for a word, a challenge he acknowledged.
“Sometimes I’ll miss a word, or sometimes I can put two words together in a conversation, but that’s really the only problem, and it gets better and better every day,” Mr. Fetterman told CBS broadcaster KDKA-TV. in Pittsburgh, in his first televised interview since the stroke.
Despite his absence from the campaign trail, Mr. Fetterman and his team have urged Dr. Defining Oz as essentially a carpet shopper, making the Republican more comfortable in New Jersey—which had been his old primary residence—than Pennsylvania, where he says he now lives in suburban Philadelphia.
dr. Oz, for his part, has faced some challenges in consolidating its base after a bitter divisive and competitive primaries earlier this year, alarming Republicans nationals.
But he has tried to project a powerful presence by posting photos of dinners — he attended Capitol Diner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Friday, his campaign said — and criticized Mr. Fetterman for his absence from the campaign trail. dr. Oz, a heart surgeon, unveiled a site that referred to Mr. Fetterman as a “basement bum,” and has challenged his rival to push for debates and said Friday the Republican had committed to five.
“It’s time for Fetterman to appear,” Dr. oz wrote on Twitter. “Pennsylvanians deserve to hear from their candidates.”
Mr Calvello did not commit to a specific number of debates, but said Mr Fetterman planned to debate Oz.
dr. Oz also has: tried to link mr. Fetterman to President Biden, who struggled with anemic approval ratings, and to Senator Bernie Sanderswho supported Mr Fetterman in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Leading up to the Friday night event, Mr. Fetterman a “official rally poster‘ and he outlined the stakes of the battle for Erie County.
“For the 2020 election, I said that if I could know a single fact about the results, I could tell you who Pennsylvania would win,” Mr Fetterman said in a statement to the event. “Whoever wins Erie County, wins Pennsylvania.”