The ongoing slugfest between TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick dominated the Republican Senate debate held Monday evening.
Former Ambassador Carla Sands also skirmished with conservative activist Kathy Barnette, feuding over which candidate is the most MAGA. And former Lt. Gov. candidate Jeff Bartos did his best to portray the two frontrunners, McCormick and Oz, as “political tourists,” who came to Pennsylvania to run for office.
With a 50-50 U.S. Senate in the balance, Pennsylvania’s Senate race has gained national attention.
The candidates agreed on most of the larger issues, such as all claiming to be pro-life, wanting lower taxes and fewer regulations, and vowing to unleash America’s energy dominance. Because their positions are so similar, voters may choose based on personal style and their perceived ability to defeat the Democratic nominee — likely to be Lt. Gov. John Fetterman — in November.
Oz repeatedly touted his endorsement from former President Donald Trump as he parried McCormick’s barbs, and he returned Trump’s endorsement with his loyalty. For example, while some Republicans are concerned that Trump’s obsession with re-litigating the 2020 election will hurt the party this fall, Oz doubled down. “I have discussed it with President Trump and we cannot move on” from the 2020 election issue, he said.
Bartos and Barnette both bashed McCormick and Oz as late-comers who moved to the state to run for the open Senate seat.
“When these carpetbaggers lose, you will never see them again,” said Barnette. “And if they should win, you will never see them again.” Voters “want someone who doesn’t just parachute into our state.”
McCormick said he grew up in Bloomsburg, where his family ran a Christmas tree farm that he still owns, then went to West Point and served in the Gulf War. Oz pointed to his University of Pennsylvania education and said he grew up near Kennett Square, albeit in Delaware.
Bartos said he is a “proud Pennsylvanian” who was raised in Berks County. He promised to fight for Pennsylvanians and pointed out that he started a nonprofit group to keep small businesses afloat during the COVID pandemic.
Sands, who grew up in Camp Hill and spent much of her adult life in Atlanta and California, said she spent about half her life here working as a “third-generation chiropractic doctor with my father.” She served as the ambassador to Denmark for the Trump administration and now runs an investment business founded by her late husband.
The candidates also criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the economy and promised to do better if voters sent them to Washington.
“Democrats have decided to weaponize climate change and create a war against energy,” said Barnette.
“I’m running to save Main Street Pennsylvania,” said Bartos. “The number one way to do it is to unleash Pennsylvania’s energy industry. We are sitting on two Saudi Arabia’s worth of natural gas…You cannot save Main Street Pennsylvania if you can’t find Main Street Pennsylvania.”
Sands said Pennsylvania needs an “Operation Warp Speed” for energy.
McCormick said he created 600 jobs at his company in Pittsburgh and agreed with the others that the state needs its energy jobs unleashed. He noted Oz called for a ban on fracking in an article on Oct. 13, 2014.
“Dishonest Dave is at it again,” Oz said. “I know exactly how to manage our energy issues…As a professor, scientist, and someone who understands a little about the actual energy infrastructure, there is no way the Green New Deal is going to provide us with what the Democrats promise. It’s a lie like so much about what they said about COVID.”
McCormick said Oz constantly repeats Trump’s endorsement because “he can’t run on his own record.”
“What’s true is that he’s flip-flopped on every major issue in this campaign,” said McCormick.
On Trump’s claims that he, and not Biden, actually won the 2020 election, Oz called the allegations “serious.”
“Under the cover of COVID, there’s been draconian changes to our voting laws by Democratic leadership, and they have blocked appropriate reviews of some of those decisions. We have to be serious about what happened in 2020, and we won’t be able to address that until we win the House and the Senate,” Oz said.
Bartos said, “Unfortunately, Joe Biden is the president. As a result of his lack of leadership, we have chaos in Russia, an illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, we have chaos in the Middle East, we have an ascendant Iran, an ascendant China, we have an economy in disarray, we have runaway inflation. And this is on the heels of every Democrat running. Every Democrat running this year is going to have to answer for the lockdowns, shutdowns, lives ripped apart. So the 2020 election was a catalyst for what we’re seeing now.”
Sands said documentary filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie “2000 Mules” is about how the 2020 election was stolen and that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said it was stolen by the directed funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
“When you take the oath to protect this country, the thing you’re protecting is the right to vote,” said McCormick. “And we have a tragedy here that most Republican voters in Pennsylvania don’t believe in the integrity of the election.”
The reasons include mail-in voting, the lack of security for ballot boxes, oversight at the precincts, and money that’s come in from Zuckerberg.
“And we have the fact that the Hunter Biden laptop story was suppressed,” said McCormick. “We’ve got to fix this. And the most important thing (is) voter I.D. We’ve got to have voter I.D.”