In 2015, Slippery Rock University alum Bobby Maggio quit his job at Dunkin’ Donuts to become a volunteer for Braddock Mayor John Fetterman’s U.S. Senate campaign. Just three years later, Maggio is now Fetterman’s campaign manager working on his race for Lieutenant Governor.
A Butler native, Maggio graduated from SRU with a degree in political science in May 2015 and continued work at the Butler Dunkin’ Donuts as the general manager. His tune changed when John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate at the time, traveled to SRU to speak to the student body. Friends of Maggio told him that, as a political science graduate, he should come to see Fetterman speak at the Ski Lodge on campus.
“I fell in love with his message, with his position,” Maggio said. “He has such a genuine, everyday kind of attitude, and the fact that he was up there simply talking about his position and not trying to sell the audience anything like other politicians really spoke to me.”
Maggio quit his job at Dunkin’ Donuts and started volunteering, without a paycheck, for Fetterman’s campaign. He was hired as the political director of the campaign early in 2016. Fetterman lost the election, but because he pulled 20 percent of the vote, Maggio said the team had high hopes for his next race.
Before the November election in 2016, Maggio began work at NextGen, planning and organizing registration and information events on SRU’s campus. He and the NextGen team registered over 2,000 students to vote in that election.
“Western Pennsylvania is just this sea of red, but there was a little speck of blue there, and that was SRU,” Maggio said.
Maggio moved easily from his position as political director to campaign manager in the weeks after the presidential election, and in 2017, Fetterman’s team started working on his next race: Lieutenant Governor. While the team was very small, Fetterman made history by winning the Democratic primary in May and upsetting the incumbent Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack.
As part of the strategy for Fetterman’s Lieutenant Governor campaign, Maggio implemented a 67-county tour strategy: Fetterman would visit every single county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania before the 2018 election. Maggio suggested this strategy because when Hillary Clinton was running for President in 2016, she made the mistake of only appearing in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and making a short stop in Johnstown. This made those in most of the Commonwealth feel ignored by her, and some of the Democratic voters cast their ballots the other way. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee and current President, made visits to more areas and didn’t “ignore” them.
“Those voters really rolled the dice by voting for [Trump], but they felt ignored and that they weren’t being paid attention to by their own party, especially those in the rural counties of Pennsylvania,” Maggio said.
Fortunately for Maggio and the Fetterman campaign, Maggio had made numerous connections within the rural areas, and when they began this 67-county tour, he utilized those connections. Even in the more “red” counties, voters
were coming out to meet with Fetterman and learn about his messages and positions.
“It’s really exciting, and it proves how successful the idea of reaching out to every county in the commonwealth can be,” Maggio said.
On Sunday, Oct. 28, Fetterman will complete the 67-county tour before embarking on another trip around the Commonwealth in the week before Election Day. Maggio noted that, while Fetterman stopped by each county at least once, there’s a large number of them that he has visited more than seven times during this period. Maggio hopes this will encourage high voter participation and bring large numbers out to the polls next Tuesday.
“We won’t stop until the polls close,” Maggio said. “We really want to get the message across that we’re out there fighting for the everyday person.”
Maggio has been a key factor in Fetterman’s success so far, and he stressed that his time here at The Rock is really what got him to where he is now. Professors in the political science department, like Dr. Sharon Sykora, Dr. Heather Rice and Dr. David Kershaw, helped Maggio prepare well for life after college.
“They were really supportive during my time at SRU, and they’ve been just as supportive after graduation,” Maggio said.
Additionally, the small-school setting aided the Butler native in understanding life in more rural areas, which helped him build such strong professional relationships later in his career. He also said he cherishes having attended a state school because now, he regularly interacts with politicians who determine the fate of publicly-funded education and having that experience bolsters his interactions with them.
“SRU students may feel like going to a small school hasn’t prepared them as well as other schools, but the truth of the matter is, they’re just as prepared if not better-prepared because they’ll have a great education coming out of SRU,” Maggio said.
Everything connects back to Slippery Rock University, Maggio said, and if John Fetterman hadn’t decided to come to speak at the Ski Lodge in 2015, Maggio doesn’t know where he would be.
Maggio advises SRU students to take the opportunities that may come their way, even if it may seem like a bad move. After all, he quit his stable job for a volunteer position, and taking that chance led to the opportunity of a lifetime.
“There’s gonna be a lot of people saying, ‘you can’t do this,’ ‘you shouldn’t do that,'” Maggio said. “I say you gotta just take those opportunities when they come your way. Just go for it. It can be hard and scary when you first graduate but you have to take those chances when they come.”
Right now, Maggio is focused on helping Fetterman win the upcoming election. As for the future, he’s excited to see where his career will take him.
“I feel like I’ve had a very successful career and I’ve only just started,” Maggio said.