When I decided to run for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat, I knew this wouldn’t be a typical campaign. I’m not a typical candidate, and this is not a typical time. I announced my campaign just days after the Jan. 6 attack on our Capitol, with our country still facing COVID-19 and, soon, record-high inflation as well.
We ran a campaign built for this moment — one grounded in Pennsylvania values. We ran a campaign based on writing no one off, meeting folks in every single county in Pennsylvania, staying true to our values and fighting for working people and against the corporations ripping us off. And we had some fun doing it.
That’s how we won. And that’s exactly how I plan to lead in Washington D.C., too.
From day one of this campaign, I knew that if we went everywhere and fought for every single vote, we would win. Just days before we officially announced our campaign, I wrote an op-ed talking about the importance of Democrats speaking to and fighting for voters everywhere — not just in Pennsylvania’s biggest cities. And it’s why we launched the campaign with “Every County, Every Vote” as our slogan.
By the time Election Day rolled around, I had traveled all across the state. After carrying each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in the primary, we won in the general by not just by running up big margins in Democratic strongholds of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — which we did — but also by cutting into Republican margins in rural, redder parts of the state that Democrats too often ignore.
The truth is that “every county, every vote” is more than a slogan or a strategy to win an election. It is also my vision for how I will govern in the Senate, because no community, no town, no individual should ever feel left behind. I traveled all across the state and to counties that Democrats often ignore not to simply win votes but to hear from the people who live there and learn what keeps them up at night. If I know them and I know the challenges they face, I can better fight for them in Congress. That’s how leaders should lead.
Another critical component to winning this race is that we didn’t compromise on our core values. Even as I traveled to these Republican strongholds, I stayed true to what I believed in. I said the same thing in red counties like Elk and Clarion that I said in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I talked about how healthcare is a human right. I talked about the importance of protecting abortion rights. I talked about defending our democracy. And I never wavered in my support for criminal justice reform, even as Republicans spent millions weaponizing it against me. I spoke about taking on corporate greed and the CEOs who’ve been ripping off working people and getting away with it for decades.
By Election Day, Pennsylvanians knew I would stand up for them — and they also knew who I would stand up against. We called out price gouging and we used our campaign email list to raise money for striking workers. We named the villains — we were unafraid to take on the big pharma companies jacking up drug costs, corporations shamelessly union-busting and oil executives ripping working people off at the pump. And we called out the leaders in Washington who have turned a blind eye to all of it.
None of it was a gimmick. It’s just who I am and what I’ve always stood for. I believe that people should be able to marry who they love. I believe innocent people shouldn’t die in prison. I believe it’s B.S. that corporations and executives are getting richer and richer while working people suffer. And I believe our democracy is worth fighting for.
Pennsylvanians saw and connected with it. That’s a major reason why $100 million in GOP attack ads and relentless hit pieces from Fox News couldn’t tear down our campaign. Voters already knew me. They already knew where my heart was and continues to be. So they saw the attacks and lies for exactly what they were.
For better or for worse, as a candidate, I speak and act the way I really am as a person. Frankly, I have very little tolerance for pretending. At the end of the day, I just tried to be the kind of guy that I would want to vote for.
It’s also not lost on me what this win means for our country — and for our democracy.
We launched this campaign months after the 2020 election where we saw the former president try to undermine the will of the people, and just days after the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt. That day at the Capitol was a stark reminder of how precarious our democracy is, but it’s really just the tip of the anti-democratic iceberg.
We’re facing partisan gerrymandering, unlimited corporate money flooding and corrupting our elections, voter suppression laws and a huge swath of the Republican Party that has declared war on our democracy.
We need to fight back. We must pass a federal voting rights bill. We got close last year, and that fight must continue in the new Congress — and if we have to scrap the filibuster to get it done, we absolutely should do that. No Senate rule is more important than our democracy.
I’m so proud to be headed to Washington to represent Pennsylvania — the birthplace of democracy — and get to work fighting for the people of the commonwealth and to protect our sacred democracy.
Sen. John Fetterman (D) represents Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate.
This piece is part of Democracy Docket’s How We Won series, which features op-eds from candidates and organizations that answer the question: How did you win in the 2022 midterm elections and what does this victory mean for democracy?