Former hedge fund CEO David McCormick said Friday that he conceded to Mehmet Oz in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, clearing the way for the celebrity doctor backed by former president Donald Trump to advance to the general election in one of the year’s most significant races.
Oz will now face Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) in a pivotal battleground in the fight for control of the Senate. The race has been stuck in limbo for weeks, as Oz’s razor-thin lead triggered a recount and as Fetterman — a liberal candidate who easily won the Democratic nomination — recovers from a stroke that sidelined him just before the primary.
McCormick said Friday that he concluded he would not be able to make up the deficit between him and Oz after 17 days of “making sure that every Republican vote was counted.”
“It’s now clear to me, with the recount largely complete, that we have a nominee,” he said, noting that he called Oz earlier in the day to congratulate him.
Oz tweeted Friday evening that he “received a gracious phone call” from McCormick and said that with the primary over, they would ensure the Senate seat “does not fall into the hands of the radical left.”
Democrats are defending a narrow Senate majority in this year’s midterm elections. Pennsylvania, a battleground state where Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey is retiring, is seen as a critical front in the fight for control of the upper chamber of Congress.
The Republican primary, in which Trump endorsed Oz, was also a high-profile test of the former president’s influence on GOP voters. His record has been mixed so far this primary season, with his endorsed candidate suffering recent gubernatorial primary defeats in Georgia, Nebraska and Idaho to go along with Senate victories by his picks in Ohio, North Carolina and now Pennsylvania.
Right after the May 17 primary, Trump had moved to baselessly discredit the then too-close-to-call Republican primary in Pennsylvania, urging Oz to declare victory before the vote tally was finished and seeking to raise concerns about mail-in ballots without presenting any evidence for his claims. Oz previously called himself the “presumptive” winner.
Trump’s April endorsement boosted Oz despite misgivings from others in the GOP, who questioned the doctor’s record as conservative and highlighted his dual citizenship in the United States and Turkey. Oz has promised to renounce his Turkish citizenship if he is elected.
Trump’s first pick in the Pennsylvania Senate race, Republican Sean Parnell, ended his campaign in 2021 amid domestic abuse allegations.
While Trump’s support has been key in some Republican primaries, it remains to be seen how heavily Republicans will rally around his endorsed candidates. Some pre-primary polling found that many Republican voters had a negative opinion of Oz.
McCormick emphasized the high stakes of the Senate race Friday and relayed to supporters that he told Oz, “What I always said to you — that I will do my part to try to unite Republicans and Pennsylvanians behind his candidacy.”
Democrats are already seeking to use Republican candidates’ ties to Trump against them in some key general-election races, including in Pennsylvania. President Biden’s low approval ratings and concerns about inflation have created major head winds for Democrats in the midterms and they are seeking ways to overcome those obstacles.
Oz’s opponents have highlighted his history of dispensing questionable medical advice on “The Dr. Oz Show.” Patrick Burgwinkle, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, denounced Oz in a statement Friday as “a fraud and a scam artist who will do, say, and sell anything to help himself — no matter who gets hurt.”
Attacking Oz as a “self-serving millionaire,” Burgwinkle cast Oz as “a different, more dangerous kind of Republican” with extreme views on abortion and support for Trump’s relentless false claims that his 2020 election loss was marred by fraud. At a debate in April, Oz said “we cannot move on” from the 2020 race.
Fetterman on Friday said he “almost died” last month after his stroke and revealed in a statement that his condition was far more serious than his campaign had previously indicated. He said he should have taken medication prescribed for him in 2017.
Responding to Fetterman’s health scare last month, Oz noted his work as a heart doctor.
“I have cared for atrial fibrillation patients and witnessed the miracles of modern medicine in the treatment of strokes, so I am thankful that you received care so quickly,” he tweeted. “My whole family is praying for your speedy recovery.”
Oz led McCormick by 947 votes out of more than 1.3 million when the state’s top elections official ordered a statewide recount last month. Counties had until June 7 to recount ballots and until June 8 to convey their findings to the secretary of state.
McCormick’s campaign had hoped that challenged mail-in ballots might help close the gap. But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. this week put a hold on counting those votes while the Supreme Court reviewed a lower-court’s decision to include them.
Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.
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What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.