- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

The candidates running in Pennsylvania’s April 26 primary for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate:


PERSONAL: Fetterman, 46, is the mayor of Braddock, a tiny and dying steel town of barely 2,000 people just 10 miles east of Pittsburgh. Fetterman, 46, grew up in York, the child of an insurance broker. He has a master’s degree in business from the University of Connecticut and a master’s in public policy from Harvard University. He was first elected mayor of Braddock in 2005. His wife is a child of Brazilian immigrants. They have three young children.

PROFESSIONAL: As Fetterman tells it, he was sleepwalking through life - “When I was growing up, I didn’t really think about how lucky I was,” he says - when, at 23, a friend of his who was on his way to pick him up was killed in a car accident. The event motivated him. He began mentoring children - including an 8-year-old AIDS orphan - and joined Americorps in Pittsburgh’s predominantly black and poor Hill District, where he taught literacy classes to adults and high-school dropouts. After getting his degree from Harvard, he went to Braddock to start a GED program. A couple years into it, two of his students were gunned down in separate incidents several weeks apart. It prompted him to run for mayor and, in 2005, he won by one vote.

As mayor, Fetterman has become a national media darling for his unusual appearance - He’s 6‘8”, tattooed with a shaved head and tattoos - and his irreverent and unconventional efforts to help Braddock. Those efforts include starting youth and sustainable farming programs, and luring artists and edgy new businesses to town. He has raised money for college scholarships for Braddock public school students and a culinary training program for residents who work at a new eatery started in town by an award-winning Pittsburgh chef.

PITCH: Fetterman says he is the most progressive candidate in the race and the one who has dealt most directly with core Democratic Party issues of battling inequality and gun violence. He has endorsed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and he touts liberal credentials that include performing same-sex marriages in 2013, while Pennsylvania’s law banning recognition of such marriage was still in force.



PERSONAL: McGinty, 52, has a long professional resume in state and federal government, a degree in chemistry from St. Joseph’s University and a law degree from Columbia University. The ninth of 10 children, she grew up in Philadelphia, the child of a police officer, and became the first in her family to go to college. She lives in Wayne, Chester County, with her husband and three teenage daughters, two of whom she adopted as orphans in India while she was there for a year as an energy-research fellow.

PROFESSIONAL: McGinty got her start in Washington, D.C., as first a congressional research fellow and then a legislative assistant to then-U.S. Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn. After Gore became vice president, she joined the Clinton administration as chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and then became an environmental adviser to Gore’s presidential campaign.

Between stints in the private energy sector, she served five years as then-Gov. Ed Rendell’s secretary for the Department of Environmental Protection. In that job, she fought to rein in mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, impose tougher vehicle emission rules, strengthen safety measures in coal mines, secure taxpayer funding to underwrite clean energy projects, require cleaner sources of electric power and engage the private sector in cleaning up waste coal and acid mine drainage poisoning Pennsylvania’s rivers.

Later, she ran unsuccessfully for governor, losing to Tom Wolf in the 2014 Democratic primary. Still, Wolf tapped her to head a political action committee that he started to support Democrats in that fall’s elections and then hired her as his chief of staff.

PITCH: McGinty is the candidate who is supported by the Democratic Party’s heavy-hitters, including U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Rendell, Wolf and major labor unions. She focuses her message on fighting for the middle class. She has endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary race.



PERSONAL: Sestak, 64, retired Jan. 1, 2006, from a 31-year career in the Navy and became the highest-ranking military officer to serve in Congress when he was elected to represent suburban Philadelphia’s 7th Congressional District. Sestak grew up in Delaware County, the third of eight children and the son of a Czechoslovakian immigrant father who was a sailor in World War II and later an engineer for Boeing, and his math teacher mother at Cardinal O’Hara High School. Sestak went to the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated second in his class. Before leaving the Navy, Sestak earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Sestak and his wife, Susan, live in Edgmont, Delaware County, with his teenage daughter. He often cites his daughter’s successful battle with brain cancer as an inspiration to run for office.

PROFESSIONAL: Sestak’s Naval career included the war-time command of an aircraft carrier battle group in 2002, a stint in the Clinton White House as a defense policy adviser and starting Deep Blue, the Navy’s counterterrorism strategy office. He reached the rank of vice admiral before retiring in 2006. That year, he was elected to the U.S. House, and served two terms, before declining to run again in favor of seeking then-Sen. Arlen Specter’s seat.

The party had approached him about challenging the then-Republican Specter in the 2010 election. But when Specter switched his registration to Democrat to avoid a bruising GOP primary challenge from Pat Toomey, Sestak lost the party’s support. He ran anyway, and beat Specter, but lost to Toomey by 2 percentage points in the general election.

PITCH: Sestak announced his candidacy in March, although he had been saying since 2013 that he was seriously considering another run. For his campaign kickoff, he walked across Pennsylvania - over 25 days, according to his campaign - and says he is running to restore voters’ trust in government.



PERSONAL: Vodvarka, 72, is the son of a former union president at a Pittsburgh-area spring manufacturing shop, Duer Spring, and went on to start his own spring manufacturing shop, which he runs with his wife and grown son. He lives in Clinton, Allegheny County.

PROFESSIONAL: Vodvarka is a political unknown who nevertheless is making his third run for U.S. Senate. In 2010, Sestak mounted a successful court challenge to Vodvarka’s nominating petitions and succeeded in getting him barred from the ballot. In 2012, Vodvarka’s nominating petitions went unchallenged and he won 19 percent of the primary vote, losing to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

PITCH: Vodvarka says he wants to return the Democratic Party to its roots as the “working man’s party” and he opposes free trade. He promotes the idea of imposing tariffs on manufactured imports as a way to force American manufacturers to reverse the flow of factories, and jobs, out of the United States. Says Vodvarka, “I want to bring the jobs back.”

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