Democratic Senate candidate vying against Oz to stay off campaign trail for now

Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 12:33 PM EDT
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(CNN) - Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman is taking a break from the campaign trail.

He’s currently Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor and recently had a stroke, which revealed a heart condition. Now he admits he almost died, and that’s raising questions about why his campaign was not more transparent about his health.

It’s been 25 days since John Fetterman has stepped onto the campaign trail. Wife Giselle Fetterman said he may not reappear until next month.

“I think he deserves a month of break to get back and come back as strong as ever because this is going to be a tough race and a really important race. And I want him to be fully ready for it,” she said.

Democrats are watching her husband’s recovery from a stroke and previously undisclosed heart condition with increasing alarm in one of the nation’s top Senate races.

With questions and concerns mounting, John Fetterman finally revealed the severity of his illness late last Friday, bluntly acknowledging in a statement: “I almost died.”

Dr. Mehmet Oz is the Republican candidate for an open and potentially pivotal U.S. Senate seat.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is the Republican candidate for an open and potentially pivotal U.S. Senate seat. (Source: CNN)

Gisele Fetterman defended their commitment to being transparent, pushing back on suggestions they downplayed his condition.

“It’s still a hiccup. I mean, families go through health crises,” she said. “Our family is not unique in what we’ve gone through, only we’ve had to go through it very publicly.”

That spotlight is likely to only intensify, considering the heart patient is now running against a celebrity heart surgeon, with Dr. Mehmet Oz finally declaring victory after his Republican primary stretched into a recount.

Republicans are wasting no time trying to brand John Fetterman as extreme, and he’s pushing back by reminding Pennsylvanians that Oz moved here from New Jersey to run for Senate.

Yet questions about John Fetterman’s health hang heavy over the race in whispers among party officials and among some voters who privately raised their concerns.

Alyssa Catalano, a friend of John Fetterman’s who owns a business just down the street from his home, said the family has tried to balance medical and political obligations.

“Being personally close to the family, my priority at that time was like, don’t, just focus on getting better, don’t worry about everyone,” she said. “But I understand that he has a responsibility right now. But I think that what I would say to those people is put yourself in their shoes.”

Pennsylvania voters offered a mixed view.

“I think that his wife will keep him on track,” Eleanor Grossman said. “So I think that if his doctors feel confident that he can be released and can campaign, then I’m not concerned.”

“I think it I think that it’s kind of creates a dangerous situation as much for him as anything,” Jim Dudash said.

It wasn’t until Friday that John Fetterman revealed he left a series of heart issues untreated for years.

In a statement, he confessed, “I should have taken my health more seriously. The stroke I suffered on May 13 didn’t come out of nowhere.”

“I hate that he had to learn it the hard way,” Gisele Fetterman said. “But I’m grateful that he’s alive and will make a full recovery, and now he is the one who listens the most, not only to me but to the doctors. And I hope that other folks can learn from him and not have to experience it like he had to.”

Asked whether she thinks it’s possible her husband would not be able to return to the campaign, Gisele Fetterman said no and added his doctors are confident he’ll make a full recovery.

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