It’s not often that candidates running for office intentionally run ads in neighboring states — much less one focused entirely on an opponent.
But that’s what Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman did in the Senate race. He recently paid for a plane to fly a banner over New Jersey’s southern shore welcoming home TV doctor Mehmet Oz who is the GOP candidate after making a politically driven move from his New Jersey home overlooking the Hudson River to his in-laws’ home in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Mr. Fetterman, the Democratic nominee, is stuck on the sidelines of the campaign trail while he recovers from a stroke. To keep his run on track, he’s urging voters to ponder how long someone has to have lived in the state to represent them in the Senate.
Tom Ferrick, a columnist and reporter who has written about Pennsylvania politics for 40 years, said the answer to the question is clear: “Forever, double that if you are from New Jersey.”
“We do not like people from New Jersey, especially northern New Jersey, an area that to us is the equivalent of coming from Kyrgyzstan — or Turkey, if you prefer,” Mr. Ferrick said.
Indeed, Mr. Fetterman, who was born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, and served as mayor of Braddock from 2006 to 2019, knows his audience. In addition to the airplane banner, he ran a tongue-in-cheek ad in which Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, a star of the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore,” wishes Mr. Oz the best of luck while “you are away from home” looking for a new job.
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“Personally, I don’t know why anyone would want to leave Jersey,” Ms. Polizzi says in the viral video.
Mr. Oz said he moved in late 2020 to a Montgomery County home owned by his wife’s parents and says he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s.
He has focused on Mr. Fetterman’s absence from the campaign trail, posting a picture on social media showing the Democrat on the back of a milk carton and releasing an ad focused on his rival’s “crazy ideas for Pennsylvania.”
“Now that he’s back John Fetterman can’t keep hiding from voters forever — I mean Joe Biden hid in his basement: How did that work out for us?” Mr. Oz says in the ad, which shows him jogging with other people through a park. “As your next U.S. senator, I will be in your community to hear your thoughts and fight to be your voice in Washington.”
“I’m glad Fetterman is healthy so he can worry less about his heart and his hoodie and more about the crazy leftist ideas in his head,” Mr. Oz says.
Mr. Oz and Mr. Fetterman are competing for the seat held by Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey. He is retiring at the end of this year. Polls show Mr. Fetterman is leading.
The carpetbagger phenomenon has been around since before it was called that, a moniker that emerged in the post-Civil War period when Northern politicians went to the South to seize political opportunities despite not having communities ties.
Sen. James Gunn, an officer in the Continental Army, was born in Virginia and moved to Georgia after the Revolutionary War in 1782 to become the state’s first senator in 1789.
Sen. James Shields had the unique distinction of serving as a senator from three different states — Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri — after being born in Ireland.
More recently, the late Sen. John McCain was chided as an opportunist when he moved to Arizona in 1981 to run for public office when the state gained a new House seat in 1982.
The Navy veteran used his background as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to silence his critics.
“I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the 1st District of Arizona, but I was doing other things,” McCain wrote in his 2002 book “Worth the Fighting For.” “When I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”
McCain won the House seat. Four years later, he won one of Arizona’s Senate seats.
Then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton also made an easy transition from the White House to the Senate, winning a seat in New York in 2000. Her husband, President Clinton, is from Arkansas. She bought her New York home in 1999.
She was following in big footsteps. Massachusetts native Robert F. Kennedy faced carpetbagger complaints when he ran for the Senate in New York in 1964.
Legendary advertiser George Lois said Kennedy was able to dull the line of attack with a campaign poster featuring the photogenic Democrat with his sleeves rolled up under the message: “LET’S PUT BOBBY KENNEDY TO WORK FOR NEW YORK.”
“Within two weeks or three weeks there was no mention ever made of Bobby Kennedy being a carpetbagger again,” Mr. Lois recalled in an interview with journalist Andrea Chalupa.
The Senate is filled with lawmakers that were born and raised in one state and represent another.
Mr. Ferrick pointed out there have been senators representing Pennsylvania who were born outside its borders, though they spent most of their lives in the state.
“Arlen Specter, for instance, was born in Kansas and retained his Kansas accent until he died, but he got away with it because many people thought it was a speech defect,” he said. “Pennsylvania is a parochial state. There is a pronounced east-west divide, with voters in Pittsburgh inclined to shunning Philadelphia-area candidates and voting for Pittsburgh-area candidates, even if they are nincompoops.”