PA Senate Candidates

Charlie Keidel ’24

When Pat Toomey announced his retirement, an open Senate seat became a desirable proposition to any politician with aspirations in Pennsylvania. The Senate is currently split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans; because the Democrats currently control the presidency, they hold a slight majority with Vice President Kamala Harris as the deciding vote. Every seat matters, especially in a battleground state. There are many candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties vying for their party’s nomination. For the sake of brevity, I’ll detail only the two frontrunners in both parties. 

We’ll start off with the Republican Party, and there is no candidate more representative of the state of politics and the new Republican Party in 2022 than Dr. Mehmet Oz, whom you should know from his syndicated daytime television show, “Dr. Oz.”

It is clear that Dr. Oz is purely an opportunist. Dr. Oz doesn’t know a thing about Washington, and it’s pretty clear that while he is polling well, his popularity, which stems mainly from his name recognition in a Republican field that has none, is bound to fall off a cliff. Dr. Oz has never even lived in Pennsylvania; the absurdity of a Senator representing a state they have never lived in is remarkable. The only reason he is permitted to run is that he chose to change his voting address to his in-laws’ house in Bryn Athyn. Never mind the fact that Dr. Oz lives in a Cliffside Park, New Jersey, mansion.

When it comes to Dr. Oz’s political views, he is a Trump-like Republican. His campaign ads present him as a New Age Republican populist. The 60-second campaign video on his website condemns the federal response to COVID-19, in which he claims, “Washington got it wrong. . . and took away our freedom without making us safer.” Dr. Oz is not a high-ranking virologist like Dr. Anthony Fauci but believes he understands the coronavirus better than Fauci.

 The other Republican candidate worth noting is Jeff Bartos. A real estate developer from Lower Merion, Bartos is most known for his creation of the Pennsylvania 30-Day Fund, a nonprofit that provides forgivable loans to Pennsylvania small businesses throughout the Commonwealth. Bartos’ primary campaign promise has been to lower taxes and support small businesses, while also parroting some Trump lines and speaking out against BLM and Biden’s administration, labeling Joe Biden “Broken Promise Biden.”

Bartos, like Dr. Oz, attempts to play to Trump’s core base, but Bartos does it in a much more shrewd way than Dr. Oz. I would liken Bartos to Jack Ciatarelli, the New Jersey gubernatorial candidate that narrowly lost to Phil Murphy. Bartos, like Ciattarelli, is running on lowering taxes and stabilizing the “Trump” economy that’s not doing as well under Joe Biden.

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, sees Toomey’s retirement as a real chance to win a much-needed seat. The Democratic frontrunner is Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. Fetterman is viewed as a progressive Democrat with more moderate views on environmental and economic issues that directly affect Pennsylvanians, such as fracking. Fetterman is a supporter of Medicare for All, marijuana legalization, and prison reform. 

Fetterman leads in many of the polls but is trailed closely by Conor Lamb. A member of the House of Representatives since 2018 and a former Marine, Lamb has been known as a conservative Democrat. He defends moderate Democratic positions and has crossed party lines and voted for Republican legislation during his tenure in the House. Lamb’s main appeal is personability and the range of voters he attracts. 

The race is still in the early stages and we won’t know who the two candidates are in the general election in November until the party’s primary elections are carried out in May.