Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz (LevittownNow.com photo)
Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz discussed his political plans during an annual dinner on Monday as Democratic nominee John Fetterman sat out, leaving room for the celebrity doctor to continue “soft on crime” accusations against his opponent.
Oz — faced with questions about crime, abortion access, working across the aisle, energy, and the environment — shared his plans for Pennsylvania if he’s elected to the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 8 general election during the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry fall dinner in Hershey.
Initially planned as a debate, the event was reformatted when Fetterman declined to participate.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, also outlined his plans for Pennsylvania in a forum moderated by state chamber CEO Luke Bernstein after GOP gubernatorial nominee Sen. Doug Mastriano opted not to attend.
Oz, who has spent months speculating over whether Fetterman is fit to serve since suffering a stroke in May, did not focus on his opponent’s health. Instead, he honed in on accusations, lodged by his own campaign and Republican allies, that Fetterman puts releasing as many people with criminal convictions as possible above community safety, and dodges debates to avoid defending what Oz’s campaign describes as “radical policies.”
The Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate nominees agreed to face off in the first — and likely only — televised debate on Oct. 25, with Fetterman, who still struggles with auditory processing, using a closed caption system to avoid missing words.
Here’s a look at what Oz had to say during the forum:
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade and give states authority over reproductive health decisions, abortion access has become a cornerstone of the 2022 mid-term elections, including in Pennsylvania’s high-profile U.S. Senate race.
On Monday, asked to define his stance on abortion, Oz said abortion-related decisions “should be left to the states.”
“I’m pro-life. I have three exceptions: [the] life of the mother, rape, and incest,” he said, adding that “local values and local government” should determine abortion policy decisions.
Recent polling released by Franklin & Marshall College shows growing support among Pennsylvanians for keeping abortion legal under all or some circumstances.
Oz, who defended Roe v. Wade in 2019, has faced scrutiny over his stance on abortion.
The celebrity doctor told reporters at a press conference in Philadelphia in September that he would not support criminal penalties for people who sought or doctors who performed abortions.
But audio from a tele-town hall, held one week before the May primary election, fueled questions about Oz’s position on abortion. In the recording, first reported by The Daily Beast, Oz said: “Life starts at conception.”
In the recording, he added: “It’s still murder if you were to terminate a child whether their heart’s beating or not.”
Crime and community safety
Oz has repeatedly accused Fetterman, who chairs the state Board of Pardons, of wanting to release as many people with criminal convictions as possible and bragging about granting more pardons “than any administration in history” as Pennsylvania experiences a rise in crime rates. The Oz campaign also launched an online campaign — “Inmates for Fetterman” — to highlight individuals with murder convictions whose release Fetterman advocated for.
When asked on Monday what Oz would ask Fetterman if he showed up to the forum, he replied: “Why does he seem to care more about the criminals than the innocent who are hurt?”
The Capital-Star asked the Oz campaign in September about his specific plan to address crime and ensure community safety.
In an email, spokesperson Brittany Yannick — who did not address specific policies supported by Oz — cited endorsements from the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police and the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police.
She said that Oz “will ensure that our police officers have the resources they need to protect the commonwealth, that our brave first responders are respected and properly trained, and that our streets and neighborhoods are safe for everyone to enjoy.”
Yannick added that Oz will “crack down on cartels and fund drug rehab centers.” On his campaign website, Oz said he opposes “anti-law” proposals such as “cashless bail.”
He also made the opioid epidemic a core part of his answers to questions, highlighting a recent visit to Philadelphia to discuss the issue and how to address it with community leaders.
“What they really need is a safe community. That’s not fraught with drugs on every street corner and some economic viability,” Oz said of Philadelphia on Monday.
Fetterman, a vocal advocate for legalizing adult-use cannabis, went further in 2015 when he told The Nation he is “for decriminalizing across the board,” saying he sees it “as a public health issue, not a criminal issue.”
Last month, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Fetterman shifted his stance on decriminalization, quoting Joe Calvello, a campaign spokesperson, saying the Democratic nominee “does not support decriminalizing all drugs — including heroin, methamphetamines, and other hard drugs.”
The Oz campaign, which accused Fetterman of “backpedaling” on drug decriminalization, has highlighted the 2015 interview, accusing Fetterman of wanting to decriminalize all drugs.
Energy, environment, and the economy
Oz, who supports fracking and suggested putting a liquid natural gas facility in southeastern Pennsylvania, called the Green New Deal a “dishonest narrative,” saying its timeline is unrealistic.
“It would create immense opportunity — tens of thousands of trade jobs, billions of revenue that could be taxed,” Oz said of natural gas investments, specifically putting a facility in the southeastern part of the state. “It would help put money in people’s pockets that might help bring together fractured communities.”
He added: “These are issues that not just help us with inflation. They help us with national security, build local communities and jobs, and it’s hurting us to not do it.”
Oz also promoted exporting Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources overseas to fuel sustainability efforts such as electric vehicles and solar panels.
Working across the aisle
If elected to the U.S. Senate, Oz will serve alongside Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
Oz said he expects to collaborate with Casey on building new and improving existing infrastructure in Pennsylvania. Oz added that he and Casey both support wanting to protect same-sex marriage.
“There are places where we would get along, and then, places we’re gonna differ,” Oz said. “But at least, we ought to be able to knock heads on topics and find a middle ground if it exists. And if it doesn’t, then we’ll go our separate ways.”
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