This combination of file photos shows Democratic Senate candidate, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, left, and Republican Senate candidate, Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2022 photos.
Pennsylvania Senate Democratic hopeful John Fetterman and Republican rival Dr. Mehmet Oz swung out of the door on Tuesday night in their only debate just two weeks before Election Day.
Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, said in his opening statement that if Oz “is on TV, he’s lying,” calling it “the ruler of Oz.” The Democrat is recovering from a stroke he suffered in May and used closed captioning during the debate.
Oz fired back, calling Fetterman “extreme” and accusing him of being soft on crime.
The race to clinch the seat vacated by retired GOP Senator Pat Toomey is widely considered one of the most important of the midterm cycle.
Democrats see the contest in the key swing state, where President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump in 2020, as one of their best chances to overthrow a Republican-held seat and hold on by their majority in the Senate. Republicans view Toomey’s seat as an inescapable part of their plan to regain control of the upper house of Congress.
The hour-long debate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania comes as Oz, the famed Trump-endorsed doctor, closed his polling deficit with Fetterman in the final weeks of the race.
The two candidates now appear to be at a virtual stalemate, according to recent polling averages compiled by RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight.
Oz’s gains came as Fetterman recovered from a debilitating stroke in May that sidelined him from the campaign trail for three months.
The Oz campaign, aided by tens of millions of dollars from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s PAC, bombarded Fetterman with ads accusing him of being soft on crime and too left-wing for Pennsylvania. Earlier Tuesday, two other GOP groups tied to this PAC paid an additional $6.2 million in ads that will run in Pennsylvania through Election Day.
Fetterman’s campaign lambasted Oz, a wealthy television star, as an out-of-touch New Jersey upholsterer who made his fortune promoting sometimes questionable health information to his audience.
The Oz campaign has also launched attacks on Fetterman’s health, openly questioning whether he is physically fit for office. Fetterman’s primary care physician wrote last week that the candidate “has no work restrictions and can work full-time in public service,” while noting that he has ongoing auditory processing issues.
Fetterman, in recent interviews, has used a captioning system in order to read live transcripts of questions as they are posed to him. His campaign warned on Monday that using captioning during the debate could lead to awkward pauses and transcription errors.
This is breaking news. Please check for updates.