Dr. Mehmet Oz, television’s Dr. Oz, is seriously considering entering the race for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat as a Republican, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
The 2022 race is expected to be one of the most competitive in the nation, after the retirement of GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, setting up competitive primaries on both sides of the ticket. The race for the Republican nomination opened up further on Monday when Sean Parnell, the candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump, suspended his campaign after a ruling in a custody case found he had committed “some acts of abuse in the past.”
Oz, 61, a cardiothoracic surgeon, rose to prominence in guest appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s show before getting his own series in 2009, and has long been criticized for promoting questionable medical advice on the show. If he were to win, Oz would become the first Muslim to hold a U.S. Senate seat.
The Washington Free Beacon first reported Oz’s interest in the race earlier this month. He has lived in a New Jersey mansion — profiled last year in People magazine — for nearly 20 years, switching his registration to Pennsylvania after the 2020 election. He received his medical degree and his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.
Other Republicans in the race include Jeff Bartos, a Philadelphia-area real estate investor who has served as the state party’s finance chair and unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, and Carla Sands, who served as Trump's ambassador to Denmark and was one of his key fundraisers in California before recently relocating to Pennsylvania.
Another potential candidate is David McCormick, an Army veteran and hedge fund executive who served in former President George W. Bush’s Treasury Department. McCormick lives in Connecticut but is a Pittsburgh native. He is already being attacked for his business record, including in a New York Post report on Monday regarding 2003 layoffs at a Pittsburgh company he was running.
Should McCormick enter the race, he’s likely to be criticized as too moderate by his rivals. The husband of former Trump aide Dina Powell, he is CEO of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, which has been criticized for its corporate culture and has done extensive business in China.
The early leader for the Democratic nomination in both name recognition and fundraising is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who previously served as the mayor of Braddock, a small steel town outside Pittsburgh. Fetterman mounted an unsuccessful Senate bid as the progressive option in 2016, but he attracted attention after he became an outspoken critic of election conspiracies promulgated by Trump and his supporters last fall, becoming a regular on cable news in the process. Fetterman is a unique figure in politics — tall, bald, goateed and eschewing suits whenever possible.
Rep. Conor Lamb, who represents a Pittsburgh-area district, has positioned himself as a moderate alternative to Fetterman in the primary. From the more populous eastern side of the state, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners chair Valerie Arkoosh and state legislator Malcolm Kenyatta, who represents part of Philadelphia, are also vying for the nomination.
Both the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia Center for Politics have rated the Keystone State race a toss-up. Apart from comfortable Democratic wins during the 2018 midterms, major statewide races in Pennsylvania have been tight, with Toomey’s 2016 reelection and the last two presidential elections all being decided by under 2 points.