Pennsylvania’s nail-biting GOP Senate primary heads to recount

Pennsylvania’s nail-biting GOP Senate primary heads to recount
Dr. Mehmet Oz in August 2015, Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania’s nail-biting GOP U.S. Senate primary is heading for a recount, with Dr. Mehmet Oz — who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump — narrowly ahead of hedge fund executive Dave McCormick.

The recount was announced by Secretary of State Leigh Chapman on Wednesday, May 25. With all of the counties in Pennsylvania having reported their unofficial results, Oz was leading McCormick by only 902 votes, according to CNN.

Under Pennsylvania law, the counties can begin recounting the votes as soon as this Friday, May 27 but no later than June 1 — and the deadline for finishing their recounting is June 7 at noon. The results of the recount must be submitted by noon on June 8.

When the primary election was held on May 17 and the vote count showed Oz slightly ahead of McCormick, Trump encouraged Oz to go ahead and declare victory — even though 5% of the votes, at that point, had yet to be counted. And Trump’s critics slammed him for once again showing his total contempt for the democratic process. But Oz had enough integrity not to follow Trump’s suggestion.

If Oz’s thin lead in the recount holds and he officially becomes the Republican nominee, the television personality and celebrity heart surgeon will face the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, in the general election.

The Republican nominee, be it Oz or McCormick, will be competing against Fetterman for the U.S. Senate seat presently held by arch-conservative Republican Sen. Pat Toomey — who isn’t seeking reelection — that was previously occupied by the late Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderately conservative Republican who switched to being a Democrat in 2009.

The Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania wasn’t nearly as close as the battle between Oz, McCormick (who was endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas) and other Pennsylvania Republicans; Fetterman defeated centrist Democrat Conor Lamb by about 33%. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta received about 10% of the vote in that primary, according to the New York Times.

On Friday, May 13, Fetterman suffered a minor stroke. But he doesn’t appear to have suffered any cognitive damage, and the progressive Pennsylvania lieutenant governor has no plans to drop out of the race.

One of the big surprises in Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary was the last-minute surge, in polls, of candidate Kathy Barnette — who is so far to the right that even Trump feared she would lose the general election if she received the nomination. But on Wednesday morning, May 18 — with 95% of the precincts in Pennsylvania having reported their election results — it was obvious that Barnette wasn’t going to win. She was trailing Oz and McCormick by about 5%. Nonetheless, the fact that Barnette performed as well as she did was a shocker for Pennsylvanians who have been closely following the race.

The QAnon-friendly Barnette, who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, is an anti-gay, anti-Muslim extremist and Christian nationalist who campaigned on making abortions illegal even for rape victims. During the Obama years, Barnette promoted the conspiracy theory that then-President Barack Obama was really a Muslim. But as far-right as Barnette is, Pennsylvania Republicans who didn’t want her to win in 2022 ran ads making the ludicrous claim that she is a Black Lives Matter supporter. Barnette has a lot more in common with Infowars’ Alex Jones than she does with anyone in BLM.

If Oz’s lead over McCormick holds in the recount, Pennsylvania will have two Senate candidates who are both unorthodox in their own ways. Oz, before 2022, was better known for his work as a television host than for his political views — which, in the past, were conservative but not far-right. The Oz of the past was a moderate conservative along the lines of Specter, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona. But Oz has flip flopped, trumpeting his loyalty to Trump in 2022 and campaigning on, among other things, firing Dr. Anthony Fauci from the federal government.

Fetterman, meanwhile, is a progressive ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders in a state that usually prefers more centrist Democrats in statewide races. And Fetterman — with his shaved head, goatee and tattoos — looks more like the lead singer in a metal band than a typical politician. Regardless, the former Braddock, Pennsylvania mayor is a great speaker, and he has run an aggressive, focused campaign.

Fetterman won the Democratic primary nomination for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor in 2018 and was elected lieutenant governor when Gov. Tom Wolf was reelected to that year.

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