Oz campaign supporters put victory hopes on hold as vote count tightens

Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks to supporters at a primary night election gathering in Newtown, Pa., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks to supporters at a primary night election gathering in Newtown, Pa., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

All eyes are still on the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat left open by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. It was too close to call Tuesday night — and will likely head to a recount.

With more than 95% of the vote counted, former hedge fund CEO David McCormick led, with 31.4% of the vote. Famed TV doctor Mehmet Oz is close behind with 31.1%.

“We’re not going to have a result tonight,” Oz told a small crowd of family and supporters at an upscale athletic club in Newtown, PA. “When all the votes are tallied, I am confident we will win.”

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In the past week, the Republican primary headed into a tight contest between three frontrunners: Oz, McCormick and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette. Barnette ended up with 24.5% of the vote as of Tuesday night.

Oz won Trump’s endorsement, and the race is seen as a test of the power of the former president’s backing.

“President Trump, after he endorsed me, continued to lean into this race in Pennsylvania,” Oz said. “God bless you, sir, for putting so much effort into this race. I will make you proud.”

 

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Oz generally led polls among the crowded field of GOP primary candidates — but not by much. He also struggled with likability, with some polls showing more Republican voters holding an unfavorable opinion of him than a favorable one.

Both Oz and McCormick are wealthy, and spent millions of dollars from their personal bank accounts on ads, many attacking each other. They were also both backed by big-spending super PACs — in particular, McCormick-supporting Honor Pennsylvania, which has spent an enormous $17 million on the race. Barnette has spent comparatively little, primarily campaigning via small events with local GOP groups.

Some have been skeptical of Oz’s ties to Pennsylvania. He went to medical and business school in Philly but until last year, lived and voted in New Jersey. He has properties — including the mansion where he lived until recently — in New Jersey, Florida, New Hampshire, and Turkey.

McCormick, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, also lived outside Pennsylvania for most of his adult life, and recently relocated back to the commonwealth from Connecticut. He still owns several luxury homes elsewhere, including in New York City, Colorado, and Texas.

Oz’s name recognition was likely a strength, but his opponents also painted him as a Hollywood liberal.

Oz’s platform focused on overturning Biden Administration energy policies, pushing for school choice, getting “tough on China,” fighting gun restrictions, building a border wall, and making prescription drugs more affordable.

Oz would be the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Senate — and recently condemned Barnette for an Islamophobic tweet. Oz’s rivals have attacked him for his dual U.S. and Turkish citizenship, which he has maintained because his mother, who has Alzheimer’s, lives in Turkey. He has said he will renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected.

Oz spoke of his parents Tuesday night, saying they came to the U.S. as immigrants who saw the “shining city on the hill.”

“I know many think that that city’s a little dim these days. That’s not what I saw, when I was campaigning,” Oz said. “I looked in the eyes of Pennsylvanians … and I saw that light as bright as ever … all it wanted to be was unleashed. And that’s why I’m running for Senate — to do just that.”

The race will be closely watched this fall, as Pa. is a key swing state and Democrats will look to flip the Senate seat.

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