Dr. Mehmet Oz, a physician known to national TV audiences, announced Tuesday that he will run for Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican, throwing more uncertainty into the closely watched primary.
“We are angry at our government and at each other,” Oz wrote in guest column published by The Washington Examiner. “We have not managed our crises as effectively as past generations. During the pandemic, I learned that when you mix politics and medicine, you get politics instead of solutions. That’s why I am running for the U.S. Senate: to help fix the problems and to help us heal.”
Oz, in a video tweeted Tuesday afternoon, specified that he is seeking the Republican nomination.
Pennsylvania’s Senate battle became a spectacle last week when former President Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, Sean Parnell, ended his campaign after his estranged wife was granted sole legal custody of their children in a case where she alleged abuse. Parnell denied the accusations.
“Pennsylvania needs a conservative who will put America first,” Oz, echoing Trump, said in his announcement video.
Oz, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school and Wharton School who as recently as 2020 lived in New Jersey, registered to vote in Pennsylvania last year at the home of his in-laws, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. He is expected to discuss his candidacy in greater detail Tuesday night on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program.
With Republican Sen. Pat Toomey not seeking another term, Pennsylvania’s Senate race in 2022 stands as one of the most consequential in determining control of a chamber that Democrats control with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. It’s the only Republican-held seat open next year in a state President Joe Biden won in 2020.
Several other prominent Republicans, including Carla Sands, Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark, and Jeff Bartos, the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, have been running for months. But the trouble surrounding Parnell, who with Trump’s backing had asserted himself as the frontrunner, triggered speculation about new candidates, including Oz. David McCormick, the husband of former Trump administration official Dina Powell and the CEO of Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund based in Westport, Conn., also has been mentioned as a prospect.
Democrats have a crowded field, too, led by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Dr. Val Arkoosh, a physician and the Montgomery County commissioner.
“All around the country, we have more people getting into these races because they’re very comfortable that next year they’re going to win,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. — who as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, is not endorsing candidates in open races — said Tuesday when asked about Oz’s candidacy.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, called Oz’s announcement “an exciting moment” for the GOP.
“He’s an incredible American success story,” Graham said Tuesday. “I think he’ll be competitive on day one. And the Republican Party is growing in the right way.”
No candidate from either party has Oz’s celebrity profile.
Oprah Winfrey gave Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, his big break on TV, first as a guest on her highly-rated daytime talk show and later as a co-producer of “The Dr. Oz Show,” which continues to air in syndication.
Oz emerged as a Trump-friendly media figure during the 2016 campaign, when the then-Republican presidential nominee — who was known for sharing minimal details about his health — appeared on Oz’s show to reveal his physical results. And through his appearances on Fox News, Oz was criticized during the early days of the pandemic for promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as a treatment against Covid-19. Trump also embraced the drug, which other medical experts had flagged for rare but potentially fatal side effects.
“The reality of our challenges has crystallized during the pandemic,” Oz wrote in his Examiner column. “Covid-19 became an excuse for the government and elite thinkers who controlled the means of communication to suspend debate. Dissenting opinions from leading scholars were ridiculed and canceled so their ideas could not be disseminated.”
Democrats greeted Oz’s entry Tuesday as a sign of Republicans in disarray.
“Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary continues to descend into chaos,” Jack Doyle, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said in a statement earlier Tuesday in anticipation of Oz’s kickoff. “It’s clear this GOP Senate primary will get nastier, more expensive — and whichever Republican candidate ultimately limps out of this intra-party fight will be deeply out of step with the Pennsylvania voters who will decide the general election.”