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John Fetterman in South Philly: Make me Senate Democrats’ ‘51st vote’

The rally was two days before Fetterman and GOP nominee Mehmet Oz face off in the only debate of the election. Fetterman continues to struggle with his speech five months after suffering a stroke.

U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman waves to the crowd during a rally at Dickinson Square Park in South Philadelphia.
U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman waves to the crowd during a rally at Dickinson Square Park in South Philadelphia.Read moreDavid Maialetti / Staff Photographer

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman on Sunday urged about 200 supporters to make him “that 51st vote” to secure Democrats’ narrow hold on the Senate.

Speaking at a get-out-the-vote rally, Fetterman accused Republican nominee Mehmet Oz of attempting to “buy” the seat by moving to Pennsylvania from New Jersey and spending millions of dollars of his own money on his campaign.

“I’m running to serve Pennsylvania. Oz is running to use Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said at Dickinson Square Park.

He vowed to fight to end the Senate filibuster, increase the minimum wage, protect labor unions, and expand access to health care.

» READ MORE: John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz are finally facing off in a Senate debate. Here’s what we’re watching for.

He also said he would vote to codify abortion rights if elected.

“If anyone believes that a woman’s reproductive freedom belongs — that choice belongs — with Dr. Oz, you know who you can vote for,” he said. “But if you believe that that choice belongs with each woman and their doctor — what’s their right choice? — [I’m] the person that’s going to fight for that in this race.”

Oz spokesperson Brittany Yanick said Fetterman, who was mayor of Braddock before becoming lieutenant governor, “has already failed to show up for Pennsylvanians twice” in those roles.

“John Fetterman is falling behind so he’s resorting to desperate lies and cheap distractions,” Yanick said. “Dr. Oz is talking to voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — who want to see a change from the failed policies of the past.”

The race is considered close, and in a city where 80% of the million-plus registrants are Democrats, turnout in Philly could be crucial to the outcome. The Senate is split 50-50 between the two major parties, but Democrats have a technical majority because the vice president is a Democrat, with the power to cast a tie-breaking vote.

The Fetterman rally came 16 days before the election and two days before Fetterman and Oz face off in their only public debate.

Fetterman continues to have difficulties with speaking five months after suffering a stroke, and at times on Sunday he misspoke and struggled to find words. He acknowledged his stroke in his speech.

“And another thing — the elephant in the room,” he said. “We had a stroke back in May, and despite all that I survived to be back, and that means I’m going to fight for you all because I’m back out on the trail.”

» READ MORE: John Fetterman is in good health, his doctor says in a new medical report

Fetterman’s campaign last week released a detailed report from his doctor, who said the candidate “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office” and that “his communication is significantly improved.”

The report also noted that Fetterman continues to show signs of auditory processing disorder, which makes it more difficult for him to understand some spoken words.

Fetterman’s speech Sunday was in one of the most left-leaning areas of the state. On Saturday night he campaigned in Chester County with two more-moderate Democrats, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan.

Sunday’s event was part of the South Philly Voter Project, a Democratic effort led by progressive state legislators Elizabeth Fiedler and Nikil Saval to recruit and train volunteers to knock on 30,000 doors before Election Day and encourage residents to vote.

Fiedler said at the rally that they were halfway to reaching that goal, and that 90 to 100 people were volunteering to canvas on Sunday.

And, she said of the Phillies’ victory Saturday night in the National League Championship Series: “I’ve got to admit that game last night gives me hope,” she said.