Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and well-known media personality, jumped into the open race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
Dr. Oz, who has been a television mainstay since 2009, is vying for the Republican nomination to replace Pennsylvania’s outgoing GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.
The race is viewed as one of the most closely contested in the nation. Among the Democratic candidates is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
“Pennsylvania needs a conservative who will put America first, one who can reignite our divine spark, bravely fight for freedom, and tell it like it is,” Dr. Oz said in a video announcing his candidacy. “That’s why I’m running for Senate.”
Dr. Oz’s entrance comes as the closest thing to a frontrunner in the race, Sean Parnell, suspended his campaign last week. Mr. Parnell, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, announced his decision after losing custody of his children in a protracted legal suit with his now-ex-wife.
Even before exiting the race, Mr. Parnell was the subject of domestic abuse allegations that many believed would make him particularly vulnerable in a general election.
Some Democrats are accusing Dr. Oz, who has lived in New Jersey, of pulling a fast one on voters in Pennsylvania.
“I want to congratulate my North Jersey constituent Dr. Oz on his run for US Senate in Pennsylvania,” tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat. “I’m sure this fully genuine candidacy will capture the hearts of Pennsylvanians.”
Dr. Oz in recent days has told associates and Republicans in Pennsylvania of his plans and, according to a TV show spokesperson, has lived and voted in Pennsylvania since last year, the Associated Press reported.
Much of the 61-year-old’s announcement centered on his history as a child of immigrants from Turkey and his medical background. The lingering coronavirus pandemic is also likely to be a key feature of his campaign, according to the announcement video.
“COVID has shown us that our system is broken. We lost too many lives, too many jobs, and too many opportunities because Washington got it wrong,” said Dr. Oz. “They took away our freedom without making us safer and tried to kill our spirit and our dignity. As a heart surgeon, I know how precious life is.”
The television personality first came to prominence in the mid-2000s as a regular guest on Oprah Winfrey’s long-running talk show. Since 2009, Dr. Oz has hosted his own daytime talk show focusing on personal health and wellness.
His extensive media career and ability to self-finance is seen as a significant advantage in the must-win Senate race. Republican strategists also hope that Dr. Oz’s name recognition, particularly among suburban women, will help keep the seat in GOP hands.
If elected, Dr. Oz would also be the first Muslim-American elected to the Senate.
To date, seven other candidates have already announced their intention to seek the GOP nomination. Few are well known, however, and the race has mainly failed to draw major attention.