HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ The race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania looks like it’s getting more colorful.
John Fetterman, the 6-foot-8, bald and tattooed mayor of a tiny western Pennsylvania steel town, said Friday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for Republican Pat Toomey’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016.
The Harvard University-educated, plainspoken Fetterman said he will make the announcement Monday in Braddock, a tiny borough 10 miles east of Pittsburgh.
He will join a primary field that already includes former congressman and Navy Vice Admiral Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty, who has held high-level posts in state and federal government.
Fetterman, 46, is active in Democratic politics and is known for his efforts to reinvigorate the down-on-its-luck steel town, where he first arrived in 2001 as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Those efforts _ starting youth programs and attracting artists and edgy new businesses _ have made him a minor celebrity in the area and landed him national attention, including appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”
It is his first run for a higher office.
His candidacy is unexpected because many of Fetterman’s fellow elected Democrats in the area are backing McGinty.
As a result, Fetterman will have to campaign hard statewide to show that he is in the race to win it and not solely to help McGinty by drawing votes away from Sestak, said Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party chairman, Jim Burn.
Fetterman is a remarkable candidate who has a great story to tell, Burn said.
“He’s rolled up his sleeves, he’s done so much in an innovative way with so few resources and put Braddock back on the map,” Burn said. “He is a grassroots guy and grassroots wins in Pennsylvania.”
Mayor since 2006, Fetterman’s style can be irreverent and unconventional.
He tattooed the town’s zip code _ 15014 _ on one forearm and the date of every slaying in the borough since he became mayor on the other.
In 2010, police charged him with defiant trespassing for refusing to leave the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s corporate headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh in protest over the closing of a hospital in his impoverished community.
In 2013, he performed same-sex marriage ceremonies in his home _ a renovated former Chevrolet dealership across the street from United States Steel Corp.’s Edgar Thomson plant _ before a federal judge’s ruling made it legal in Pennsylvania.
More recently, he has raised money for college scholarships for Braddock public school students and a culinary training program for Braddock residents who work at a new eatery started in town by an award-winning Pittsburgh chef.
On Sunday, Toomey will officially announce his candidacy for a second six-year term.