Conservative voters angry at the political establishment have pushed outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson to the top of the Republican presidential field.

On the left, Democrats have their own strain of discontent, personified in the presidential race by the soaring popularity of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his attacks on billionaires and capitalist greed.

That frustration also has inspired liberals to enter Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania and several other swing states, taking on candidates anointed by national party leaders.

Take John Fetterman, the 6-foot-8, bald, tattooed mayor of Braddock, Pa., a progressive hero who jumped into the state's Democratic primary last month.

"No one who looks like me has ever run for an office of this magnitude," Fetterman, 46, said in a recent interview, joking that he hopes the Senate floor does not have a dress code - he favors Dickies work shirts.

Former Rep. Joe Sestak, whose unconventional style and antiestablishment message have irked party leaders, is back for another run, after beating U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic primary. The party recruited Katie McGinty, a former White House aide and Pennsylvania environmental regulator. She quit as Gov. Wolf's chief of staff to enter, with the encouragement of some national Democratic groups.

Democrats "have always been so good at calling the shots in these primaries," said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington.

"But in some cases, people aren't listening anymore," Duffy said. "There's a frustration, a belief that the party shouldn't be handpicking nominees, and . . . is not spending enough time and effort on issues they care about, like income equity."

In Ohio, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, 31, is challenging the party establishment's choice, 75-year-old former Gov. Ted Strickland. Democratic power brokers united around Iraq War veteran Rep. Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, but Andrea Zopp, former president of the Chicago Urban League, is challenging her.

The biggest clash is in Florida. Rep. Alan Grayson, who calls himself a "progressive champion," casts Rep. Patrick Murphy, the Democratic Party's preferred candidate, as a "lightweight, empty-suit errand boy for Wall Street." The two are vying for the seat now held by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a candidate for president who is not running for reelection to the Senate.

In Pennsylvania, the Democrats are fighting for a chance to try to unseat Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Fetterman said he is motivated by the desire to fight "inequality," decrying the economic trends that hollowed out Braddock, a steel town in Allegheny County, and have left wages and opportunities for working people stagnant while the wealthy prosper.

A native of York, Pa., Fetterman came to the city to start a GED program in 2001 after receiving a master of public policy degree from Harvard University. He was introduced to the Pittsburgh area as an Americorps volunteer. In 2005, Fetterman was elected mayor of Braddock by one vote, and he has held office ever since.

Since then, he's had some success encouraging artists and start-up businesses to move to Braddock. He defied state law at the time to preside at his county's first same-sex wedding in 2013. He also once pulled a shotgun on a man he thought was running from the scene of a shooting; no weapons were found on the man.

"In this day and age, people are looking for more than skeezy old politicians who keep things just the way they are," said Asa Foster, 25, who founded the Brew Gentlemen Beer Co. in Braddock with a classmate last year.

"John fits that mind-set, which you see across the country in the presidential campaign," Foster said. "He's a breath of fresh air who will say what's on his mind no matter what."

Fetterman acknowledged that despite different positions on illegal immigration and almost every other issue, he has something in common with Trump.

"Our bank accounts couldn't be different, but neither one of us is going to be the pick of his party's bosses," Fetterman said.

Fetterman's campaign said Tuesday that it had raised $170,000 from slightly more than 2,000 grassroots donors from Sept. 14, when Fetterman entered the race, through last Wednesday. Seventy-eight percent of the contributions were for $50 or less.

Sestak and McGinty have not yet released their fund-raising totals, though Sestak had raised $2.2 million as of June. The Federal Election Commission has not yet posted the most recent reports.

Fetterman has been drawing online buzz and has landed respected advisers, including Bill Hyers, a veteran of the Obama campaigns.

"If he has the ability to get his story out, he can convince people," said Jeremy Bird, a Democratic strategist who was national field director in Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. "He's so authentic."

Bird became aware of Fetterman when the mayor was an early Obama endorser in the hard-fought 2008 Pennsylvania primary against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At the time Fetterman endorsed him, Obama was under fire for comments at a West Coast fund-raiser deriding small-town Pennsylvanians as "bitter" people who "cling to guns or religion" out of fear.

"We were not on our biggest roll; he showed courage," Bird said.

tfitzgerald@phillynews.com

215-854-2718@tomfitzgerald

www.inquirer.com/bigtent

WHAT'S NEXT

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Democratic Primary Debate

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Las Vegas.

Moderator: Anderson Cooper.

TV: CNN.

Who: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee. Vice President Biden could join them if he enters the race.

Republican Debate

When: Oct. 28.

8 p.m. primetime debate, 6 p.m. undercard debate.

TV: CNBC.

Where: University of Colorado

in Boulder.

Who: Candidates with at least 3 percent polling average appear in prime time, the rest at the 6 p.m. debate.

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