Fetterman and Shapiro win in Pennsylvania

John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro both won their general election races.

In a huge victory for Democrats, Pennsylvania voters flipped the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for the past 12 years by electing Lt. Governor John Fetterman over Dr. Mehmet Oz. In the governor’s race, Democrats maintained control after Attorney General Josh Shapiro defeated Republican Doug Mastriano. The commonwealth also made history by electing the first Black lieutenant governor, Austin Davis.

Fetterman’s win could mean the Democrats keep control of the Senate, which is currently 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie breaker. Races in Wisconsin and Nevada remain too close to call, and Georgia goes to a run-off next month between Democratic incumbent Rafael Warnock and Trump-endorsed Republican Herschel Walker. 

Oz called Fetterman to concede the race at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to Fetterman spokesman Joe Calvello.

Fetterman, a staunchly pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ and pro-union candidate who has been lieutenant governor since 2019, was in a tight race against celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz. The two candidates had been in a virtual tie in recent weeks. Oz spent millions of his own money on the race, which was the most costly of the midterms with more than $300 million spent. 

Republicans outspent Democrats nearly 2 to 1 in the race, and Republican dark money ads had focused on crime in Philadelphia as an issue, using blatantly racist images claiming Fetterman was responsible for the rise in carjackings and gun violence in Philadelphia.   

Oz, who had said previously that abortion is murder, said in the October 25 debate that abortion decisions should be made between a woman, her doctor and local politicians. Oz also made the transphobic claim of “getting men out of women’s sports” part of his campaign and said he supports conversion therapy. Oz emphasized crime and drugs in Philadelphia as a talking point, showing scenes of addicts in Kensington in one of his ads.

Fetterman is a progressive who has said repeatedly that he would be “the 51st vote for the Equality Act” as well as a vote for a bill codifying same-sex marriage with The Respect for Marriage Act. As his campaign told PGN, Fetterman has worked for state and local laws to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination, he fought to lift restrictions on men who have sex with men from donating blood, and he has been a staunch supporter of adoption rights for LGBTQ couples. 

The campaign told PGN that Fetterman had recently celebrated the 9 year anniversary since he officiated the first same-sex marriage in Allegheny County in defiance of Pennsylvania’s then-ban on same-sex marriage. 

In his acceptance speech, Fetterman reiterated his support for abortion rights, raising the minimum wage and unionization. His longtime support for legalizing marijuana and criminal justice reform became a flashpoint for Republican talking points in the must-win race, with ads asserting that Fetterman wanted to let murderers out of prison and flood the streets with fentanyl. 

Fetterman’s health was also a major factor in the race. Fetterman had a stroke in May, just days before he won the primary over State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Congressman Conor Lamb. Oz’s campaign had made spurious claims about Fetterman not eating vegetables as being the cause of his stroke, but it was atrial fibrillation that caused it. 

Throughout the general campaign, Fetterman became a face for disabled Americans, and in exit polling voters were split on whether Fetterman’s challenges post-stroke had influenced their voting. Asked during the campaign whether he would talk to his own patients the way his campaign talked about Fetterman, Oz responded with one word: “No.”

Governor-elect Shapiro ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, and delivered a major defeat against Trump-endorsed Mastriano. Some Republicans openly broke with Mastriano, calling him too extreme, despite Trump’s continued support. The Republican Governors Association never supported his campaign financially. 

Mastriano, a retired colonel and GOP state senator representing the 33rd district, led the attempts in the Pennsylvania legislature to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results. Mastriano also attended the January 6 insurrectionist rally at the Capitol, although he did not breach the building. He was called to testify to the January 6th Committee. Mastriano also made antisemitic comments about Shapiro, who is Jewish, and had sought support from an antisemitic social media platform, Gab. 

Mastriano was one of the most staunchly anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion gubernatorial candidates in the country. On Oct. 3, PGN reached out to Mastriano and Shapiro, to ask their stances on marriage equality and LGBTQ rights issues. Shapiro responded immediately, asserting his support. Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to several requests for comment. 

Starting with his acceptance speech after the primary in May, Mastriano reiterated his extremist stance that abortion was wrong in all instances and there should be no exceptions, even for rape, incest and the life of the mother. At a debate earlier this year, Mastriano said, “I don’t give a way for exceptions.” Mastriano also made snide transphobic allusions to former PA Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, now assistant Secretary of HHS in the Biden administration. 

Mastriano was also opposed to same-sex marriage and has said, “Absolutely not. I’m for traditional marriage and I am not a hater for saying it.” In addition, Mastriano said it’s “disgusting” to discourage conversion therapy for LGBTQIA+ youths. “This is disgusting to me, where bureaucrats and Tom Wolf — and Josh Shapiro — think it’s okay to come in and threaten parents and therapists because their kids might be confused,” Mastriano said to conservative talk radio station 103.7 FM radio host Michele Jansen on August 26, 2022. As Salon reported, Mastriano “spent a good portion of his segment talking about conversion therapy for LGBTQIA+ youths.”

Shapiro has been consistently supportive of and vocal about LGBTQ issues, including sharing his support on social media. “As State Representative, I fought to strengthen LGBTQ+ protections under law,” Shapiro posted on Twitter. “As Commissioner, I married some of Pennsylvania’s first LGBTQ+ couples. As Attorney General, I’ve defended the rights of LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians time and time again.”

Shapiro now takes the helm of a key battleground state as the 2024 presidential campaign launches in 2023. Both Fetterman and Shapiro will take office the first week in January.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.