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A crowded and competitive race in battleground Pennsylvania for the Republican Senate nomination is getting more divisive as a leading contender is taking aim at two top primary rivals for being “MIA” from a debate scheduled for Monday.
“Have you seen these men? Their names Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick. Last known whereabouts anywhere but Pennsylvania,” charges the announcer in a new digital ad by Senate candidate Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer, philanthropist and the 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.
In the spot, which was shared first with Fox News on Friday, the announcer the claims that “both promised to debate but now they’re MIA. Why are Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick hiding from us?”
Bartos has agreed to take part in a debate scheduled for Monday that was organized by well-known Pennsylvania based GOP consultant Christopher Nicholas.
Oz, the cardiac surgeon and author who until the launch of his Senate campaign late last year was host of TV’s popular “Dr. Oz Show,” “communicated to the debate organizers a few weeks ago that he had a scheduling conflict that evening but appreciated them hosting,” his campaign told Fox News.
And the Oz campaign added that they were “not aware of why Dave McCormick decided to back out after committing”
The McCormick campaign told Fox News that the former hedge fund executive, West Point graduate, Gulf War combat veteran and Treasury Department official who entered the race last month “is looking forward to debating. Hopefully Mehmet will confirm a day and time soon.”
Bartos, who last March launched his bid to try and succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in a race that could determine whether the Republicans regain the Senate majority in this year’s midterm elections, has repeatedly touted that his “whole career has been focused on Pennsylvania.”
And his new attack ad, which the Bartos campaign tells Fox News is supported by a very modest digital buy, is his latest jab at Oz and McCormick, whom he charges are “political tourists…who’ve parachuted into Pennsylvania.”
Oz lived for years in neighboring New Jersey, but his campaign notes he registered to vote as a Republican over a year ago in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, using the home of his wife’s parents in the affluent Philadelphia suburb of Bryn Athyn as his residence. According to election records, he voted twice by absentee ballot in Pennsylvania in 2021. Oz lived in the Keystone State decades ago, as he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school and Wharton business school in 1986.
McCormick grew up in Pennsylvania, where his family has deep roots, but had lived in Connecticut in recent years. Last year he bought a home in the Pittsburgh area.
Monday’s debate is the second in the GOP primary race that McCormick and Oz aren’t attending. Neither candidate took part in a Jan. 12 debate hosted by the Lawrence County GOP.
Another of the major candidates, real estate and investment executive Carla Sands, who served as ambassador to Denmark during the then-President Donald Trump administration, also didn’t attend the January debate and announced on Friday that she’s not taking part in Monday’s face off either because it wouldn’t be televised. But it appears the debate will be televised statewide on PCNTV, a cable network in Pennsylvania.
Thanks to a crowded field that includes independently wealth candidates and well financed super PACs, more than $20 million has already been spent to run TV ads in the Pennsylvania Senate race, according to figures from the national ad tracking firm AdImpact. And nearly all the spending so far has come from the GOP rather than the Democratic contest, with three months to go until the May 17 primary.