Mehmet Oz, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, speaks during a campaign stop in Harrisburg on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. (Capital-Star photo by Marley Parish)
One day after the first and only U.S. Senate debate ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee Mehmet Oz doubled down on his crime policies, lodging attacks against Democratic nominee John Fetterman and vowing to make decisions for community safety.
Oz, joined by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and onetime South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, and Republican state lawmakers during a brief campaign stop at the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association in suburban Harrisburg, also attacked Democratic Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for crime rates in the state’s largest city.
“I think Pennsylvania deserves more than Krasner,” Oz said Wednesday, hours after House Republicans introduced a measure to impeach the city’s district attorney, who won reelection last year. “And Pennsylvania deserves better than Fetterman.”
Oz did not take questions from reporters at the event.
Crime has become a central issue in the high-profile race, which could determine political power in the upper chamber next year. Fetterman, who chairs the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, has faced attacks that he’s soft on crime and accusations from Oz that he wants to release as many people with criminal convictions from prison as possible.
The Oz campaign also launched an online campaign — “Inmates for Fetterman” — to highlight individuals with murder convictions whose release Fetterman advocated for, and Oz supporters in orange jumpsuits stood outside the television studio hosting Tuesday night’s debate.
The celebrity doctor previously called on Fetterman to fire two formerly incarcerated people, Lee and Dennis Horton, working on the Democrat’s campaign.
The Horton brothers spent 27 years behind bars after being convicted for a 1993 robbery and fatal shooting. The brothers, who maintained their innocence for nearly three decades, had their sentences commuted by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in February 2021.
Fetterman — who has depicted himself as believing in second chances — called Oz’s singling out of the Hortons a “smear” and “sad and desperate attack” on people “who were wrongfully convicted,” describing the brothers as “two of the kindest, hardest working people I know.”
“We need to right a wrong, and I’ll tell you what we need is sanity again, in Pennsylvania and across this country,” Haley said, addressing a small crowd of Oz supporters. “We need strength again, in Pennsylvania and across this country. And it starts in November. It starts with the elections, and it starts with Pennsylvania.”
During the debate, Oz — asked how he would have voted on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — said the bill wasn’t perfect. But he said he supports stronger background checks and mental health investments to combat rising gun violence.
The celebrity heart surgeon, who opposes sanctuary cities, also said there is a “catastrophe” at the U.S. border, adding that cartels have contributed to human trafficking and fentanyl overdoses. Oz was also quick to bring Philadelphia into the debate, saying that police don’t have enough funding to do their job.
This week, Oz unveiled a plan to combat crime, including keeping cash bail for violent offenders, giving federal prosecutors resources to prosecute violent, repeat offenders, increasing penalties for certain crimes, and allocating more funds to law enforcement.
“As a doctor, if I prescribe a pill for a problem and it doesn’t get better, I need to change what I’m doing,” Oz said Wednesday. “I can’t blame you, and that’s why I’m calling for a more thoughtful approach to law enforcement.”
Oz has received a series of endorsements from law enforcement agencies. York County District Attorney Dave Sunday, a Republican, said the Republican nominee understands the two components of criminal justice — accountability and redemption.
“He knows that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to criminal justice,” Sunday said.
Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, a Republican, and Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, also voiced support for Oz and his crime-related policies.
After the event, Garrity told reporters that she thinks Oz has pulled ahead in the race.
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