Gisele Fetterman becomes the center of attention after her husband’s stroke

Pennsylvania’s second lady Gisele Fetterman stepped into the spotlight this week, taking a central role in the campaign of her husband, Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman, after suffering a stroke.

Gisele Fetterman has long been a presence on the campaign trail, with her husband frequently citing her former status as a “dreamer” when discussing immigration.

But being front and center on primary night when her husband couldn’t be introduced to a much larger audience.

“Women can do anything,” Gisele Fetterman said in an interview with The Hill on Friday when asked what it was like to be in the spotlight on primary night.

“John used to always be the strong one in our family relationship and it was my chance to step in and I wanted him to be proud so it was easy to have to live up to it,” he said.

John Fetterman suffered a stroke the Friday before the Pennsylvania primary and underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker on Election Day. It was Gisele Fetterman who spoke at her campaign party after she won the Democratic nomination for Senate, she spoke to the media and provided updates on her husband.

The lieutenant governor credited his wife with urging him to seek medical attention when he was not feeling well.

“I didn’t want to go, I didn’t think I had to, but Gisele insisted and, as usual, she was right,” she said in a statement.

Since her husband’s stroke, Gisele Fetterman has been vocal about the importance of knowing the warning signs of stroke.

“It’s a really important conversation,” he said.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Fetterman came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant when she was 7 years old with her mother and brother. The family settled in Queens, New York, where her mother worked cleaning houses and hotels. Fetterman described her mother’s work in the US as an “adjustment”, after earning her Ph.D. and manage hospitals in Brazil.

“That started our journey in this new country as new Americans,” he said.

Fetterman then pursued a career in the nonprofit space, focusing on issues like food insecurity, poverty, and equity. She is the founder of Freestore 15104, a Braddock, Pennsylvania-based organization dedicated to redistributing donated and surplus goods to communities in need. She is also a co-founder of the nonprofit organizations For Good PGH and 412 Food Rescue.

“Access is really my passion,” he said. “Work to ensure that everyone has access to all the things that we owe.”

It was Fetterman’s work in the nonprofit space that led her to meet her husband.

“It’s a really romantic story. Are you ready?” exclaimed Fetterman.

Fetterman was working in Newark as a nutritionist when he read about the work then Braddock Mayor John Fetterman was doing.

“I was inspired by the work I was doing and wrote a letter to the Town of Braddock sharing my work with food justice and food access,” he said. “The letter ended with John, who called me and then planned a visit.”

“He came to visit me after the call and then I came and fell head over heels for me,” she said. She realized that the bridges he was driving over, like the Brooklyn Bridge, were made with Braddock steel.

“I felt like it was a connection and a signal,” he said.

The two married in 2008. Since becoming lieutenant governors and second lady, Pennsylvanians have viewed the Fettermans as a team.

“You have two people who can literally draw crowds,” said TJ Rooney, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party. “That’s what you call a political blessing.”

Gisele and John Fetterman have spoken about their story of growing up as an undocumented immigrant. In 2020, the couple wrote a joint op-ed in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that protects immigrants who came to the United States when they were minors from deportation. kids. More recently, the lieutenant governor has summoned him on the campaign trail.

That same year, Gisele Fetterman was the victim of a racist verbal attack in which a white woman hurled racist slurs at the second lady while she was in line at the grocery store and then approached her in the parking lot. Fetterman posted a video of the incident online.

The second lady told The Hill that a “compassionate approach” to immigration is just one of the issues her husband would focus on if elected to the Senate, also mentioning ending filibuster, raising the minimum wage , the legalization of cannabis and tackling climate problems.

John Fetterman is recovering well, his campaign spokesman Joe Calvello told the Post-Gazette on Thursday, though he is not yet ready to return to the campaign trail.

Even after she is, experts say Gisele Fetterman’s presence on the campaign trail probably won’t go anywhere before November.

“People already know her in the state,” said Kelly Dittmar, a research assistant professor at the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. “It would make sense to take advantage of that notoriety beyond her illness.”

When asked if he would one day like to run for office, Fetterman immediately poured cold water on the idea.

“I would never, ever, ever want to be in politics,” Fetterman said with a laugh. “I like to have a back seat, I like to have non-profit work.”

“I imagine I would continue that work, maybe I would have a slightly bigger platform to do it, but by running for anything, I promise I will never get caught there,” he said.

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