Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman made a tentative return to the campaign trail with a rally in Erie, Pa., his first public appearance after suffering a debilitating stroke in May.
“I just got so grateful, and I’m so lucky,” he said Friday night in a sometimes halting 11-minute speech to 1,400 supporters.
Fetterman, the Democratic nominee in a closely watched US Senate race for the open seat of departing GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, has faced increasing pressure from his Republican opponent, celebrity surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, to show voters he’s healthy enough to serve in Congress.
Oz challenged Fetterman to a series of five debates earlier Friday — a proposal the Fetterman team reportedly rejected.
During his speech Fetterman, wearing his trademark black hoodie, shied away from policy specifics, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, focusing mainly on his recovery.
“Tomorrow. Tomorrow is, three months ago, three months ago, my life could have ended,” he said as he thanked his wife Gisele, standing at his side onstage, for recognizing his stroke symptoms and rushing him to a nearby hospital.
But he also made some digs at his opponent, in keeping with his social-media messaging that mostly consists of mocking Oz on Twitter.
“Do you think Dr. Oz can fill a room like this?” he asked the crowd.
“He doesn’t live here,” Fetterman said of Oz, a former New Jersey resident. “He’s not about us. He doesn’t care about us.”
A Fox News poll released July 28 found Fetterman with an 11-point lead over his GOP rival among registered Pennsylvania voters, with 13% undecided.