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NEWTOWN, PA – Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman Tuesday took the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nomination despite a stroke last week, as three major GOP candidates battle it out in a too-close-to-call primary ahead of a midterm race that’s key to the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
Fetterman won over moderate Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., in a victory for progressives in the Keystone State.
While former President Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot on Tuesday, his continued firm grip over the GOP is on the line in the Republican Senate showdown, following his endorsement and full court press of support the past week and a half for Mehmet Oz, one of the front-runners in the primary race.
Also grabbing national attention is the likelihood that state Sen. Doug Mastriano — a strong supporter of Trump’s repeated attempts the past year and a half to relitigate his 2020 election loss, who was endorsed by the former president just three days ago — may win the GOP gubernatorial nomination. That could potentially cause the GOP major headaches in the general election.
And the spotlight’s also shining on state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive lawmaker who’s running in the Democratic primary for an open U.S. House seat in a heavily blue Pittsburgh area congressional district.
Lee, who enjoys the backing of giants on the left — including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez — could become the latest member of the so-called “Squad” of diverse, progressive, House members if she wins the primary election. The divisive primary has turned into a battle between the Democratic Party’s centrist and progressive wings.
Meanwhile, the Democratic nominees for Senate and governor were making headlines on primary day due to their health. Fetterman’s campaign said he was undergoing what they called a “standard procedure” to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator after he suffered a stroke on Friday and was hospitalized. Fetterman – who the AP projected to win the Democratic Senate nomination Tuesday – said on Sunday that he was on the way to “a full recovery” and added that his “campaign isn’t slowing down one bit.”
And Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro, who the Associated Press projected to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday, tested positive for COVID-19 on primary morning.
Oz, the cardiac surgeon, author, well-known celebrity physician, who until the launch of his Senate campaign late last year was host of TV’s popular “Dr. Oz Show,” told Fox News after casting his primary ballot that he felt “very confident” and that he was “in a very good spot.
Oz has been one of the two polling front-runners for a couple of months in the GOP showdown to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, along with co-front-runner Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, West Point graduate, Gulf War combat veteran and Treasury Department official in former President George W. Bush‘s administration.
McCormick highlighted his “good momentum” and pointed to the high percentage of voters who said their minds were still not made up heading into the primary. He noted that “there’s lots of undecideds.”
But the Republican primary turned into a three-way face-off in the past few weeks following a surge of support in public opinion polls for veteran and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette. An optimistic Barnette told reporters she’s “so excited we get to make history by the grace of God.”
Among the other major contenders in the large GOP primary field were Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer, philanthropist and 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, and Carla Sands, a real estate executive and major Republican donor who served as ambassador to Denmark during the Trump administration.
The Oz and McCormick campaigns and outside super PACs backing the two contenders since the beginning of the year have spent tens of millions of dollars to run TV, digital and radio ads attacking each other over their conservative credentials and over key issues, making the GOP the most expensive in the nation so far this cycle.
Since her jump in the polls, Barnette has faced withering attacks from her rivals and other Republicans concerned over her lack of vetting, past controversial comments, her double-digit loss in a 2020 congressional election, and worries that she’s too extreme to win a statewide general election in a purple state like Pennsylvania.