Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic Senate nominee, will hold his first public rally next week since suffering a near-deadly stroke four days before the May 17 primary election, his campaign announced Friday.
The rally is planned for Erie, Pa., one of the state’s swing counties, on Aug. 12. Fetterman has only recently resumed attending in-person fundraising events and has made a few brief public appearances — but nothing on the scale of what is planned next week.
“Before the 2020 election, I said that if I could know one single fact about the results, I could tell you who was going to win Pennsylvania. Whoever wins Erie County will win Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said in a statement announcing the rally. “Erie County is Pennsylvania’s most important bellwether county. I’ve visited Erie dozens and dozens of times in the past, and I am honored and proud to be returning to the campaign trail here.”
Donald Trump won Erie County in 2016, and Joe Biden captured it in 2020.
Fetterman faces celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the November election. Oz has remained active on the campaign trail since prevailing in the Republican primary, although he has faced criticism for reportedly taking trips to Ireland and Palm Beach, Fla.
Despite his absence from the campaign trail, a recent poll showed Fetterman with the advantage. Fetterman held an 11-point lead over Oz, 47 percent to 36 percent, in a Fox News poll released July 28. Three percent backed independent candidate Everett Stern, and 13 percent supported someone else or were undecided.
In an interview late last month with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — his first media interview since his stroke — Fetterman said he felt ready to return to the trail.
“I might miss a word every now and then in a conversation, or I might slur two words. Even then, I think that’s infrequent,” Fetterman said. “So I feel like we are ready to run, and that’s the only issues I have. That’s the absolute truth, 100 percent.”
Fetterman’s campaign office announced on May 15, two days before the primary, that he had suffered a stroke “caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long.” The doctors worked to “quickly and completely remove the clot, reversing the stroke, they got my heart under control as well,” Fetterman said in the statement released by his campaign. Doctors attached a pacemaker with a defibrillator.
He told the Post-Gazette that he has “no physical limits,” walks four to five miles each day in 90-degree heat, understands words properly and hasn’t lost any of his memory. He said he is working with a speech therapist and sometimes struggles with hearing.
The race to fill the seat held by retiring Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R) is considered one of the most competitive in the country and will help determine majority control of the Senate.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP’s campaign arm, has been mocking Fetterman with a count of his days off the trail and an image of him with the words “Have You Seen This Person?”
It sent out another release hours before the Fetterman campaign announcement, saying, “Another Fetterman-Less Friday.”