Anyone who has followed Pennsylvania politics in the last year knows about John Fetterman. The story of the rough-around-the-edges mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania (population: 2,150), Harvard graduate, and current U.S. Senate candidate has caught the attention of political pundits across the country for his unconventional approach to politics. The York Daily Record reported today that five-year Penn State linebacker Ben Kline will join the Fetterman campaign, becoming the second Nittany Lion this offseason to enter the world of politics.
If you haven’t read up on Fetterman, the Philadelphia Magazine and New York Times published two great profiles. With the appearance of a truck driver — he has the dates of Braddock’s five murders tattooed on one arm, and its zip code on the other — the 6-8, 230-pound Fetterman has created a stir in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race with his community approach to politics. The Times described him as “the Paul Bunyan of hipster urban revival.”
Fetterman is waging an uphill battle for name recognition against establishment candidates Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary for the opportunity to take on incumbent senator Pat Toomey in November 2016.
Kline, known recently for his lovable eccentrism as well, was part of Joe Paterno’s final class of fifth year seniors that walked off the field for the final time in Jacksonville earlier this month. The linebacker was involved in more than just football at Penn State — he was the president of Uplifting Athletes — and is currently finishing up his master’s degree.
“I’m excited about it,” Kline told the Daily Record. “It’s interesting that he has taken over a town with enormous problems and has been able to accomplish what he has. He has dealt with issues concretely, not in the abstract. That’s a constant theme in his style of leadership.”
Kline drove to Braddock to hand over his resume in person. Here’s more from the Daily Record:
“It’s really interesting what he’s doing in Braddock,” he said. “It ties into my interests. It’s something I want to be a part of.”
He searched online for contact information for Fetterman and found it hard to come by.
So in December, a day he had no classes and a day off from football practice, he jumped in his car and drove two and half hours to Braddock.
He started at the library – the town had the first Carnegie Library in the country – and was directed to Fetterman’s office. There, he was directed to his campaign office, where he handed his resume to a campaign worker, chatted for a while, and then headed back to State College. He didn’t have a chance to meet Fetterman, but he said, “I really got a feel for him from the people who worked for him.”
Fetterman was intrigued. He wondered what kind of person would drive from State College just to hand in a resume. He called Kline and told him he was surprised that he would drive to Braddock from State College on a whim. Kline told him that he was interesting in being a part of his team, that he admired what Fetterman had been able to accomplish in Braddock and that he liked the mayor’s ideas for revitalizing downtrodden industrial towns.