Infighting and Whining: Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate Primary Heats Up

“You let him attack me. … That is wrong,” Television personality and current GOP candidate for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat Dr. Oz complained to the moderator of the state’s first GOP Primary debate on Wednesday. Oz had been put on the defensive over his former position on fracking–the controversial oil extraction technique that stole the show at 2020’s VP debate between Kamala Harris and then VP Mike Pence.

The two men are running to fill the PA Senate seat being vacated by longtime Senator Pat Toomey, who has chosen to retire rather than run for re-election. Toomey, currently the only statewide elected official representing the GOP in PA, announced his impending retirement in 2020. Oz, along with his main challenger in a crowded Republican primary, hedge fund executive David McCormick, have turned Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary into the most expensive race in the nation. With months still to go before the May 17th primary, they’ve collectively spent more than 50 million dollars on TV and internet ads attacking one another, some of which have veered into the silly, and bizarre. 

Adding to the absurdity, neither Oz nor McCormick can accurately be described as Pennsylvanians. Both have relocated to PA from out of state within the past year for the purpose of seeking this office (though McCormick did grow up there, before moving away to pursue his business ventures). And, ironically, considering the emphasis the GOP has put on fake claims of voter fraud since 2022, Oz actually did falsify his address to register to vote in PA in the 2020 election. (He registered using his in-laws’ address.)

“She’s not following the rules! I follow the rules,” Oz whined during Wednesday’s debate, following an attack by another, more distant challenger for the PA senate seat. The Pennsylvania State Republican Committee has not yet chosen to endorse a candidate for this primary. Neither, technically, has Once and Future King of the Republican Party, former President Trump. FP Trump had made an endorsement, but his favored candidate, Sean Parnell, “suspended his campaign after losing custody of his children in a divorce marked by allegations of past domestic abuse.” This dynamic–-a GOP primary full of notable, rich, but deeply unqualified candidates—will make the general election battle for Toomey’s seat a bellwether for Democratic hopes of retaining the Senate in the 2022 midterms, argues The Hill in this article. In the meantime, it’s a race that will be worth following if only to find out how much money can be spent on intraparty bickering and name-calling, before the general election even begins. 

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