Dr. Mehmet Oz parachuted into a crowded field running for the 2022 Republican nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania.
The famous television doctor, who cut his TV chops with the wildly successful television personality Oprah Winfrey and hosted his own program, “The Dr. Oz Show,” will use those communication skills in his new career–political candidate.
Oz, 61, who now claims Bryn Athyn as his home, lived until recently in northern New Jersey. The cardiothoracic surgeon who invented a heart valve practices at Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center in New York.
But Oz is no stranger to Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and the Wharton School at Penn, after earning his undergraduate degree at Harvard University.
In a campaign video, he said he is running for the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Toomey as “a conservative who will put America first, one who can reignite our divine spark, bravely fight for freedom and tell it like it is.”
And Oz also cited the COVID-19 pandemic that showed America “our system is broken. We lost too many lives, too many jobs, and too many opportunities because Washington got it wrong. They took away our freedom without making us safer and tried to kill our spirit and our dignity.”
“Dr. Oz now needs to demonstrate to Pennsylvania Republicans that he cares about them and wants to represent them, and the rest of the state, in the U.S. Senate,” said Christopher Nicholas, a veteran Republican strategist based in Harrisburg. “Regardless of party, it’s a hard slog running a statewide race here across our 45,000-plus square miles.”
Professor Berwood A. Yost, director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy and the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, agreed Oz will need to convince Pennsylvania voters that his political positions, now mostly unknown, align with theirs.
“Dr. Oz undoubtedly has strong name recognition and, more importantly, personal wealth that he can use to run a competitive campaign,” said Yost. “I assume that he will be attacked for being a non-resident, which I think can be a real liability among the state’s voters. That said, a large primary field means that any candidate can win with a small portion of the vote, so his name recognition and personal wealth make him viable at this moment.
“In trying to assess his candidacy, there are two main things we just don’t know yet about him,” said Yost. “The first unknown is where he stands politically and how those positions will resonate with Republican primary voters. The second unknown is how he fares as a campaigner. Dr. Oz has never run for office and running a statewide campaign in Pennsylvania isn’t easy.”
Democrats were quick to sharpen their claws.
“We went four years with a deranged TV personality in the White House and it almost brought our democracy to its knees,” said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), who is himself among those running for the Senate. “Pennsylvania and our country damn sure can’t afford six years with a deranged TV personality representing us in the U.S. Senate.”
Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County board of commissioners, shared a similar tweet: “We’ve seen what happens when TV personalities gain power & @DrOz is the last thing we need when we face real challenges. I’m Dr. Val Arkoosh and I’m the real doctor running in #PASEN.”
But even before he chose to run for office, Oz faced criticism from those who claim some of the products he’s touted on his TV show have no medicinally effective use and are not backed by research. And several Delaware Valley physicians were skeptical when asked to comment previously on Oz’s potential candidacy.
Oz, whose parents immigrated to America from Turkey, has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 36 years. The couple raised four children, Daphne, Arabella, Zoe, and Oliver, and has four grandchildren. Oz grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, where his father was a thoracic surgeon.
Meanwhile, other Republicans who are vying for the Senate include businessman Jeff Bartos, author Kathy Barnette, and lawyer Sean Gale —all Montgomery County residents. Carla Sands, who served as ambassador to Denmark under President Donald Trump, is also a contender.
And rumored to be waiting in the wings are David McCormick, a hedge fund CEO, and former Chester County Congressman Ryan Costello.
Among the Democratic contenders already in are Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, and Philadelphia ER Dr. Kevin Baumlin.