When Braddock Mayor John Fetterman arrived a few minutes late to a campaign stop at a hip Fishtown bar earlier this month, he made a campaign promise.
"If I get elected your next Senator, the first thing I'm going to do is get you some more god**** parking," he declared. Then, in a more somber tone, he added, "there's too much parking in Braddock -- that's the problem."
His adopted home, a small former steel town just south of Pittsburgh that suffered a steep decline as jobs left and poverty moved in, was an unlikely platform for a Senate run.
But the six-foot-eight Fetterman, with bold tattoos up his meaty forearms, won national attention with his unvarnished style and on-the-ground efforts to help a place hit hard by the kind of poverty, crime and inequality many politicians talk about, but rarely live among.
Inside the bar that Sunday, young liberals raved about his authenticity and progressive values.
Fetterman's campaign, capped with a surprisingly strong showing Tuesday night left many intrigued about what comes next.
He won 20 percent of the vote statewide, powered by a strong first place showing in his home county, Allegheny, far exceeding what public polls showed, and what many insiders expected given his low fund-raising totals. He placed third, with around 292,000 votes.
The Senate may have been a leap too far, but Fetterman showed an appeal that reached beyond his borough of 2,100. On Tuesday night he said his run was the beginning of a progressive movement, and "not how our story ends."
On Wednesday, he said his vote total reflected a message that resonates. But he didn't have firm plans on how to build on it.
"I really don't know yet, the ink's not even dry on the results. I can't say exactly what that is," he said.
He pointedly noted, however, that national Democrats poured millions of dollars into the race to help the eventual winner, Katie McGinty, and blasted as "malpractice" the polls that showed him so far behind, saying they created a false impression that hurt him.
"We're all Democrats here and to have millions of dollars spent against you in the race by your own party is disappointing," Fetterman said.
His campaign said he spent just $2 per vote, compared to $10 for Sestak and $14 for McGinty. (His showing may also have eaten into Sestak's base, though the mayor disputed that).
Fetterman, 46, vowed to The Inquirer editorial board this month that he would not be a perennial candidate who tours the dinner circuit waiting for an opening so he can move up the ladder.
For now, he said Wednesday, "I get to go back to being mayor, and I get to go back to being a father and a husband and I get to enjoy being a civilian again."
He left open the question of what he has up his work shirt sleeve next.