Over a dozen Democratic voters told CNN on Election Day that they would vote for Senate candidate John Fetterman, saying that the tattooed, 6-foot 8-inch, bald, goateed, cargo-short-wearing lieutenant governor aligned with their values, seemed like an atypical official and would be the party’s best chance to win the seat in November.
Fetterman, the former mayor of nearby Braddock, is the front-runner in the race and expected to do well in this western part of the state. CNN talked to 21 voters at the Allegheny County Office Building’s polling center in downtown Pittsburgh. Thirteen of them said they supported Fetterman over his two major opponents: Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.
“He’s a human being and not as much a politician,” said Mike Schnitgen, 69.
“I think that he can beat the Republican in the fall because I think he might appeal to some of the Trumpers,” said Rich Green, 63, while Lamb would “be seen as part of the swamp” by them.
“He’s a local. I’ve always loved his policies. I think he’s a genuine person,” said Tye Alu, 24, of Fetterman. “I’d like to see him win.”
Some voters said they were concerned by the news that Fetterman suffered a stroke last week and would have a procedure to implant a pacemaker today, but remained on his side.
Wendy Holt, 52, said she was on the fence between Fetterman and Lamb, and that Fetterman’s diagnosis gave her a little bit of a pause at the last minute. But she still decided to vote for him because “his roots are here.”
“I went with Fetterman, even though he just had a stroke,” said Holt. “I know what people have to go through to recover and I thought wow, that’s a lot of stress.”
Some voters said they’d support Lamb. Alexandra Gregory, 70, said she’d support him out of loyalty to his service as her representative in the House.
“Connor Lamb has been my district representative and I’ve been a supporter ever since he ran the first time,” said Gregory.
On the Republican side, a few Pennsylvanians said they voted for celebrity surgeon and former TV show host Mehmet Oz because he earned former President Trump’s endorsement. The other top-tier candidates facing Oz are former hedge fund manager David McCormick and political commentator Kathy Barnette.
“I voted for Oz because Trump’s supporting him,” stated Rebekah Blankenship, 59.
Carmella Weismantle, 56, wore a t-shirt saying she’s proud to be an American. She said she was deciding between Oz and Barnette but decided to go with who Trump picked.
“Anybody who Trump endorsed, I’m going to vote for, “ said Weismantle. “If Trump endorsed him, there’s a reason why.”
But Dale Ruediger, 62, who was wearing a 2020 Trump shirt, decided to go with Barnette, saying he wasn’t sure where Oz stood on some issues, even though Trump endorsed him.
“She aligns more with what my views are,” said Ruediger.
In the primary for a House race, Democrats appeared split between Summer Lee, a progressive state representative and democratic socialist, and attorney Steve Irwin, who has been endorsed by retiring Rep. Mike Doyle.
Holt voted for Lee, a Black woman, since “she stands for reproductive rights” at a time when the constitutional right to an abortion is under threat and because of her background.
“There needs to be some new blood,” said Holt. “Kind of tired of old white guys.”
Pro-Israel groups have supported Irwin, who is Jewish, over Lee. Asked how his position on Israel would affect the race, Irwin told CNN, “I’m a strong supporter of the state of Israel and the right of Israel to exist. And I’ve been clear on that. And I’ve gotten a lot of support because of my support of the state of Israel.”
Nelson H., 27, said he is Jewish and voted for Irwin in part because of the candidate’s position on Israel.
“That’s a big thing for me because I see some people on the far left are very anti-Israel, almost the point of anti-Semitism,” said Nelson, who declined to provide his full last name.