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John Fetterman’s new campaign manager is Philly-based Biden alum Brendan McPhillips

McPhillips, who ran Fetterman’s unsuccessful 2016 Senate primary campaign, ran Biden's 2020 operation in Pennsylvania and has also worked on campaigns for City Councilmember Helen Gym.

Brendan McPhillips, left, on his wedding day, with Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who officiated his wedding.
Brendan McPhillips, left, on his wedding day, with Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who officiated his wedding.Read moreChloe Elmer/JPG photography

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has hired a Philadelphia-based veteran of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign to lead his U.S. Senate run in the general election.

Brendan McPhillips, a Democratic strategist who ran Biden’s campaign in Pennsylvania, will become Fetterman’s campaign manager, the campaign said Monday. McPhillips ran Pete Buttigieg’s Democratic presidential campaign in Iowa and has known Fetterman since 2015.

He described the stakes of the race, expected to be one of the most closely-watched and competitive in the country, as “incredibly high.”

“We’re running against someone who doesn’t even live in and who isn’t from our state,” McPhillips, referring to GOP nominee Mehmet Oz, said in an interview. “We need more authentic representation from folks who really want to go and do the work.”

Bobby Maggio, Fetterman’s campaign manager during the Democratic primary, will become a senior adviser, accompanying Fetterman on most campaign stops over the next several months.

“Bobby has been with me every step of the way and as the campaign kicks into high gear, he will be there again for advice out on the road,” Fetterman said in a statement. “Brendan knows Pennsylvania, he knows our team, and he knows how to win.”

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McPhillips, 39, ran Fetterman’s unsuccessful 2016 Senate primary campaign. He has also worked on campaigns for City Councilmember Helen Gym and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

“In 2016, we were just kind of introducing John to the voters for the first time ... but he took that platform and made connections with people throughout the state,” McPhillips said.

The environment is far different six years later, with Democrats expected to face stiff headwinds in November. But McPhillips said Fetterman is unique enough to cut through some of that. He said a part of his strategy will be “letting John be himself.”

“I don’t think people should just accept that narrative as fact,” McPhillips said of the ominous political forecast for Democrats in the midterm elections. “This isn’t a national campaign. This is a campaign where somebody who’s well-known and loved in Pennsylvania is running to continue to work for the people, and I think he’s gonna have to work really hard, but that people are going to respond well to it.”

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Fetterman hasn’t returned to the campaign trail since a May 13 stroke. His campaign has said he continues to rest and recover. Fetterman’s wife Gisele shares frequent social media videos of Fetterman out walking near their home in Braddock. He has not conducted interviews or done any public, in-person campaign events in the last month.

McPhillips said he spoke with Fetterman after the stroke and before the primary, and that he has “full confidence he’ll be back on the trail soon and putting a lot of miles on his truck again.”

McPhillips and Fetterman first crossed paths when McPhillips was a student at Notre Dame and Fetterman, then mayor of Braddock, came to talk to some political science students in 2009. Six years later, McPhillips was running Fetterman’s first Senate campaign. And in 2019, McPhillips asked Fetterman to officiate his marriage to his wife, Jane Slusser, a former chief of staff to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

“It was a lot of fun,” McPhillips said. “He wore his dress jeans.”