PA Senate race taking shape

Democratic candidate John Fetterman, GOP’s Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick leading the way

Ally McVey, Managing Editor

The United States Senate currently teeters on a 50-50 division between Republicans and Democrats – now, Pennsylvania stands poised to tip this balance.

One of Pennsylvania’s two seats in the U.S. Senate will be vacated in 2022 by Senator Patrick Toomey, a politician who, by today’s standards, can be characterized as moderately conservative; Toomey dissented from the majority of his party during the 2021 impeachment trial of Donald Trump, voting to convict the president for his role in inciting the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Following this bold move, Toomey will not seek re-election and will retreat to the private sector, paving the way for a wide variety of candidates to launch Senatorial bids.

First on the scene was Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who literally towers over his Democratic competition. Along with his trademark sweatshirts and mesh shorts, Fetterman touts his commitment to legalizing recreational marijuana, Medicare for all, criminal justice reform, and raising the federal minimum wage. Despite his Harvard degree, Fetterman is the epitome of working class – born to two teenage parents, Fetterman is no stranger to poverty and hardship, making him connect to the blue-collar Pennsylvania voters the Democratic party so desperately needs to reach.
Though a historically crowded field, Fetterman faces little competition for the Democratic nomination — Val Arkoosh, arguably Fetterman’s most viable challenger, suspended her Senatorial campaign in early February, clearing the tattooed giant’s path ahead of the May primaries. U.S. Rep Conor Lamb and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta are still in the Democratic field.

Fetterman, if he gets the nomination, will face significant obstacles, however, when he faces the Republican Senatorial nominee this November. With Pennsylvania having turned blue during the 2020 presidential election, momentum favors Republicans, who, despite the deep divisions within their own party, will be tremendously eager to keep the Senate seat red.

The current favorite for the Republican nomination might seem unusual, but, in the Republican party of 2022, is surprisingly on-brand: Dr. Mehmet Oz, a former television doctor with no political experience, burst with Hollywood flare onto the Senate scene this past November, and led a preliminary poll administered by Franklin and Marshall College for the Republican nomination. His medical opinions have long been questionable, much like his status as a resident of Pennsylvania – Oz maintains his primary residence in North Jersey, but conspicuously registered to vote under his in-laws’ Montgomery County address in 2020.

Oz’s campaign promises to “fight the establishment” and “take back our freedom,” a sentiment echoed by Republicans across the nation. What Oz lacks in political tenure he makes up for in funds – having amassed a large fortune as a television personality, Oz has already purchased several advertising slots to attack his main challenger.
David McCormick is the former CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, yet claims he will stay true to his Pennsylvania roots as a U.S. Senator. Television advertisements feature the multi-millionaire donning a flannel shirt and engaging in rugged behaviors like hunting and chopping wood, which, he says, demonstrate his understanding of “hard work.” In the official announcement of his candidacy, McCormick pledged to “defend the American dream for future generations from the radical left.”

Both Oz, a celebrity, and McCormick, a business executive, vow to challenge America’s elites – a demographic which they are both, arguably, part of themselves. One cannot help but wonder whether Oz and McCormick may face challenges appealing to blue-collar Pennsylvania workers compared to Fetterman, whose working-class persona actually aligns with his background.

Still, the natural swing of momentum that is characteristic of mid-term elections favors the Republicans, whose loyal voters will be eager to turn the state back to red following the 2020 presidential election.

In recent years, Pennsylvania has emerged as a critical battleground state, if not the most critical of them all. The 2022 Senatorial election proves to be no different; with the Senate split 50-50 and the Democrats hoping to implement an ambitiously progressive policy agenda, it is safe to say both parties will go to enormous lengths to win the seat as the nation watches.