WASHINGTON — On Sunday, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman marched in the Puerto Rican Day in his hometown of Reading. The six-foot-eight Democrat is running for Senate against Republican television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Reading Puerto Rican Day Parade + Festival 🇵🇷 pic.twitter.com/Ti5SgO4tQe
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) September 18, 2022
The frontrunner in November’s midterm election, Fetterman’s media-savvy campaign has capitalized on a series of blunders by Oz, a New Jersey transplant who says words like “crudité” and told The Breakfast Club‘s Angela Ye in 2014 that sexual relations between second and third cousins was “fine.”
Key to Fetterman’s campaign strategy are Latino voters. Over a million Latinos live in Pennsylvania, including the candidate’s wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, a formerly undocumented Brazilian immigrant born in Rio de Janeiro who moved to New York City as a child.
“I know what limbo is like,” the Second Lady of Pennsylvania told Latino Rebels of her life as an undocumented person. “John has seen my journey, my family’s journey as immigrants to this country.”
Mrs. Fetterman became a U.S. citizen over a decade ago but says that her experience in Brazil makes her acutely aware of what can happen “when dangerous men win elections and then refuse to give up power.”
She draws comparisons between the former Trump presidency and that of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, an ex-military man and federal lawmaker whom many — including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — fear could instigate a military coup should he fail to win reelection in October.
“My family still lives in Brazil,” said Mrs. Fetterman. “This really affects me personally.”
At Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day parade in Reading, Mrs. Fetterman marched alongside her husband waving a Puerto Rican flag and holding a black sign that read “LATINOS PARA FETTERMAN.” The candidate himself wore a Puerto Rico flag around his shoulders like a cape while a hypeman marched alongside the couple, encouraging paradegoers to vote for Fetterman.
“This is a vote that can decide elections in Pennsylvania,” said the Second Lady on Monday
“Our community has been through a lot,” she continued. She pointed to Hurricane Fiona, which swept across Puerto Rico on Sunday and left the entire island without power.
“John supports self-determination for Puerto Rico and will fight for it in the Senate,” she said.
Mrs. Fetterman also says she’s closely following the legal cases surrounding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era policy that orders officials at the Department of Homeland Security to use prosecutorial discretion in shielding from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. As a formerly undocumented person herself, she empathizes with the heartache and stress felt by immigrants living in the shadows.
If elected to the Senate in November, Fetterman would become the only U.S. senator married to a formerly undocumented spouse. And with immigrant rights advocates starved for allies in the Senate during the current Congress, they may find one in Fetterman in the years to come.
But first, he has to win.
Pablo Manríquez is the Capitol Hill correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports