Gisele Fetterman steps into the spotlight after husband’s stroke

Pennsylvania’s second lady, Gisele Fetterman, was in the spotlight this week and played a central role in the campaign of her husband, Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, after he suffered a stroke.

Gisele Fetterman has long been on the campaign trail, with her husband frequently citing her dreamy status when discussing immigration.

But being front and center on primary night when her husband couldn’t introduce her to a much wider audience.

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

“John has always been the strongest in our family’s relationship and this was my opportunity to step in and I wanted to make him proud, so it was easy to have to,” she said.

John Fetterman suffered a stroke the Friday before the Pennsylvania primaries and underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker on Election Day. It was Gisele Fetterman who made remarks to her campaign party after winning the Democratic Senate nomination, speaking to the media and providing updates on her husband.

The lieutenant governor credited his wife with urging him to seek medical attention when he was feeling unwell.

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

Since her husband’s stroke, Fetterman has expressed the importance of learning the warning signs of strokes.

“It’s a very important conversation to have,” she said.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Fetterman came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant at age seven 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 United States as an “adjustment,” after earning her doctorate. and hospital management in Brazil.

“It started our journey in this new country as new Americans,” she said.

Fetterman then pursued a career in the nonprofit space, focusing on issues such as 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 co-founder of the non-profit organizations For Good PGH and 412 Food Rescue.

“Access is really my passion,” Fetterman said. “Working to make sure everyone has access to all the things we should.”

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

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

Fetterman said she was working in Newark as a nutritionist when she read about the job then Mayor John Fetterman was doing in Braddock, Pennsylvania.

“I was inspired by the work he was doing and wrote a letter to the Borough of Braddock to share my work with food justice and food access,” she said. “The letter ended with John calling me and then arranging a visit.”

“He came to visit me after the call and then I arrived and he fell madly in love with me,” she said. She noticed that the bridges she drove on, like the Brooklyn Bridge, were made with Braddock steel.

“I felt it was a connection and a sign,” she said.

The two married in 2008. Since becoming lieutenant governor and second lady, the Fettermans have been considered a team by Pennsylvanians.

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

Gisele and John Fetterman spoke about Gisele’s story 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 while they were children of deportation. More recently, the lieutenant-governor quoted him during the election campaign.

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

The second lady told The Hill that a “compassionate approach” to immigration is just one topic her husband would focus on if elected to the Senate, also listing an end to the filibuster, raising the minimum wage, legalizing cannabis and addressing climate issues.

Fetterman is recovering well, his campaign spokesman Joe Calvello told the Post-Gazette on Thursday, although he is not yet ready to resume campaigning.

Even after that, experts say Gisele Fetterman’s presence on the campaign trail likely won’t go anywhere until November.

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

When asked if she would ever like to run for office, Fetterman immediately threw cold water on the idea.

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

“I imagine I would continue this work, maybe I would have a slightly larger platform to do it, but running for anything, I promise you will never catch me there “, she said.

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