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America loves a comeback story. 

When you grow up in western Pennsylvania you are surrounded by some of the most compelling narratives in our history.  In Elementary School, local students take field trips to Ft. Necessity to learn about the French and Indian War. 

We are reminded of the outgunned, under equipped, and ill-trained Pennsylvania soldiers who won the American Revolution under George Washington. We hear about Andrew Carnegie coming to America with nothing and building the greatest steel empire that ever existed. 

We adapt these stories to the generational Pittsburgh legends like Bill Mazeroski’s hitting the 1960 World Series homerun, the Bradshaw to Harris Immaculate Reception, and Mario Lemieux rescuing the Penguins from bankruptcy to three more Stanley Cups. 

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It is in our blood to root for the comeback. Pittsburgh was America’s engine when Braddock’s Edgar Tomson Steelworks was running. Then steel factories closed. Pittsburgh suffered. However, today, Pittsburgh is back with high-tech jobs, world-class health care, and a robust restaurant scene. 

I am a restaurant owner. About six years ago, I decided to open “Portogallo Peppers N’AT” in Braddock, where John Fetterman was the mayor. 

Bob Portogallo is the owner/operator of Portogallo Peppers N’AT in Braddock, Penn. It’s a certified veteran-owned business.  He is a  retired Air Force veteran of 22 years. Portogallo is also the manufacturer and distributor of Portogallo Peppers N’AT Spicy Giardiniera and Sweet and Spicy Peppers.  

Before we opened, I was living in a nearby community and heard about a renaissance that was happening in Braddock, Pa.  I called the mayor because Braddock didn’t have the best reputation then, and frankly, it still could use some work. 

He pitched me on the idea that there was increasing traffic through Braddock and the comeback was underway. 

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I moved in and even served his family pizza. I rooted for the comeback, but like most things about John Fetterman, there was a lot of hype and not a lot of substance. 

Then-Mayor Fetterman had a knack for promoting himself and a narrative of a working class guy helping to rebuild a struggling town. 

Fetterman’s work ethic puts him first and the rest of us are pretty much where we were before.  He didn’t have to work like those had to scrape together a living because he could live on a family safety net unlike the Braddock residents who were struggling to get by. But if you took his picture or gave him a platform, Fetterman was your guy. 

John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate, speaks during a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Fetterman and Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz are running to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring. The outcome of the race could decide which party controls the Senate. 

John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate, speaks during a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Fetterman and Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz are running to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring. The outcome of the race could decide which party controls the Senate. 
(Nate Smallwood/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Frankly, my restaurant is lucky to still be open for business.  Before the pandemic, we finished an outdoor patio.  During the pandemic, Fetterman and the governor’s office shut down restaurants if they only had indoor space. 

My customers were desperate to get out of the house and we offered one of the few options that had enough outdoor space to stay open. 

Fetterman didn’t care about me or the businesses like mine that were shutting down. Now I am a lone restaurant where we were promised a restaurant row would grow. 

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Fetterman was an expert in getting himself ink in the newspapers, but the ink from our businesses ran red. Fetterman moved into the Lt. Governor’s chair and businesses didn’t move into the vacant buildings on Braddock Avenue. 

Fetterman’s non-profits organizations snatched up lots of properties, but how many still are not habitable for families or businesses.  Now Fetterman wants a promotion to move to Washington, D.C. while Braddock is left behind. 

I served in the U.S. Air Force. I live and work in Braddock. 

Abandoned building being taken over by surrounding vegetation. Oliver St., Braddock, Pa.

Abandoned building being taken over by surrounding vegetation. Oliver St., Braddock, Pa.
(Google Maps)

I am going to keep up the work that serves my neighbors and loyal customers that helped me start my business, kept me going through the outrageous shut down of the pandemic, and will be with us next week and the week after. 

Businesses like mine are committed to the comeback of Braddock because we are here working while Fetterman tries to run out the campaign clock and take a seat in the U.S. Senate. 

We shouldn’t let the false narrative of John Fetterman move from Braddock to Washington D.C.  He isn’t selling a comeback story, he is selling himself. 

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America deserves a real comeback. Restaurants, small businesses, and working people need a real comeback. 

The polls are tight in Pennsylvania so let’s hope the comeback that America gets on November 8th features Dr. Oz as Pennsylvania’s next Senator-elect. The people of Braddock will be better off with him serving us in Washington. 

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