Meet John Fetterman, The Tattooed, Head-Shaven Mayor Running for Senate
The mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, is also a Harvard graduate.
By ALI DUKAKIS and RICK KLEIN
October 23, 2015, 10:00 AM
• 3 min read
-- He’s not your typical United States Senate candidate.
Standing 6-feet 8-inches tall with a shaved head, his arms inked with tattoos, at first glance, John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, looks more like a motorcycle club member on “Sons of Anarchy” than a potential Capitol Hill lawmaker.
But there’s far more than meets the eye to the Democratic hopeful, who is vying for the seat currently held by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Sitting down with ABC News at The Science Club in Washington, D.C., Fetterman talked about his tenure as mayor, his Senate campaign, and what he hopes to bring to the table on Capitol Hill.
Fetterman’s most talked about tattoos are both on his forearms. One marks Braddock's ZIP code, "15104," which he got after winning the three-way Democratic primary for mayor in 2005, besting the incumbent by just one vote. His other tattoo is more serious. “These represent the dates of people that have been killed through violence in my community since I've been mayor,” he explained.
While he first faces a crowded Democratic primary race, which includes Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak, Fetterman -- who a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist referred to as “a big ball of authenticity entering a campaign where that has been sorely missing” -- said if he’s elected senator, he plans to underscore the need to decriminalize drugs in the ongoing debate about gun control.
“A lot of the deaths on my arm are young black males that are involved in the drug trade,” he said. Fetterman added that discussing proposed gun control measures “needs to be a common conversation where we just have to say ‘enough is enough.’”
The steel town mayor said that some people take him more seriously when they find out he holds a Harvard graduate degree. And while he’s grateful for his education, Fetterman -- whose wife is a former undocumented worker -- expressed great concern about education, income, and opportunity inequality in America.
“It's not because I did something special or I'm intelligent or anything. It's just because of the family I was born into, this random lottery of birth that occurs that ... is so hard to escape if you're born into a community like mine,” he explained.
"It's just not fair and it's un-American and I think that really underpins why I'm running,” Fetterman added.
ABC News' Veronica Stracqualursi, Tom Thornton, Jasmine Spencer and John Bullard contributed to this production.