Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Republican David McCormick launches run for Senate in Pa.

David McCormick’s announcement likely rounds out the Republican field in one of the country’s most critical Senate races, and adds another wealthy contender to a wide open contest.

David McCormick at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse, in this Nov. 20, 2016 file photo. McCormick is running in the 2022 Republican primary election in the race for the Pennsylvania seat being vacated by two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
David McCormick at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse, in this Nov. 20, 2016 file photo. McCormick is running in the 2022 Republican primary election in the race for the Pennsylvania seat being vacated by two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.Read moreCarolyn Kaster / AP

Pennsylvania’s Senate race has another high-profile — and wealthy — Republican contender.

David McCormick, a former hedge fund manager and Army veteran, officially launched his long-expected campaign Thursday morning, joining a crowded and free-spending field in one of the country’s most critical and competitive Senate races.

McCormick, who grew up in Pennsylvania but most recently lived in Connecticut, for weeks has made clear that he intended to run, airing more than $2 million of television ads since late December, meeting with GOP insiders across the state and buying a home in the Pittsburgh area.

His formal entry, after months of public maneuvering, likely rounds out the Republican field in a contest that could help decide control of the Senate and, with it, the fate of much of President Joe Biden’s agenda. (He’s also the third wealthy GOP candidate who only recently relocated to the state.)

A statement announcing his campaign presented McCormick as a Pennsylvania native who will “defend the American Dream for future generations from the radical left.”

“All Pennsylvanians are enduring the disastrous policies that Joe Biden and the Democrats have unleashed on our Nation and I cannot stand by and let it continue,” McCormick said in the news release, his first public comments signaling his approach to the campaign. “Weakness and wokeness are on the march across all of society. They are threats to our country’s future and antithetical to who we are as Pennsylvanians. I am running for Senate to stand up to the movement of weakness.”

Four months before the primary, he joins a wide-open race with no clear front-runner and wealthy rivals also pouring millions into television ads. The GOP field now includes Mehmet Oz, the celebrity surgeon known as “Dr. Oz”; Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark; developer Jeff Bartos; conservative commentator Kathy Barnette; and Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto. Incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey isn’t seeking reelection.

Sean Parnell, a GOP candidate who had won an endorsement from former President Donald Trump but then dropped out of the race amid accusations that he had choked and verbally abused his wife, endorsed McCormick on Thursday night, Fox News reported. They plan to campaign together at a Republican event Saturday, seemingly signaling McCormick’s intentions to appeal to Trump and his supporters.

» READ MORE: Meet the candidates for Pa.'s open Senate seat in 2022

McCormick comes to the fray with a sparkling resumé that fits the traditional Republican mold, support from some notable GOP figures, and an apparent willingness to spend millions of his own fortune. But he also faces questions about whether a hedge fund leader with establishment support can appeal to today’s Republican primary voters. He’s untested politically, having never run for public office or faced the scrutiny that entails. And his former fund’s investments in China are already drawing potentially potent attacks.

Supporters point to McCormick’s background, with ties to the military, business world, and Pennsylvania. He grew up in Bloomsburg, in central Pennsylvania — where his father was chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education — and went to West Point, became an Army Ranger, and earned a Bronze Star while serving in the first Gulf War. McCormick then earned a doctorate from Princeton University, led a business in Pittsburgh, and served in several roles in the George W. Bush administration before becoming chief executive of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund.

He left that job this month, but his leadership there is providing fodder for rivals.

A super PAC supporting Oz greeted McCormick this week with an ad hammering Bridgewater’s investments in China and job losses McCormick oversaw in the Pittsburgh area. The spot featured a red Chinese flag and a narrator warning: “He’s a friend of China, with a long record of selling us out.”

A senator for Pennsylvania should not have a sterling record of enriching the Chinese Communist Party,” said Casey Contres, Oz’s campaign manager.

Oz’s camp also released a memo emphasizing positive comments McCormick made about China in the past, the more than $1 billion his fund raised there last year, and previous criticisms he offered of Trump.

Seemingly anticipating the attack, McCormick published an opinion piece on Fox Business on Thursday calling the Chinese Communist Party “the greatest economic and national security threat to the United States” and calling to confront it “head-on.”

McCormick on Thursday also launched his first two campaign ads, attempting to ground the wealthy executive as a down-to-earth Pennsylvanian. One shows him in a camouflage jacket as he carries a hay bale in one shot and talks about hunting in another. It enlists two high school friends, wearing hoodies and sitting at a bar, to playfully mock McCormick’s hunting and high school football exploits. “Dave McCormick’s Pennsylvania roots will keep him grounded,” the ad says.

» READ MORE: David McCormick is taking his first public steps to run for Senate and join a tumultuous GOP primary

In the second spot he talks about wrestling at West Point and vows “to fight the woke mob hijacking America’s future.”

Some Pennsylvania Republicans lined up behind McCormick before he even began his campaign, including national committeewoman Christine Toretti, former GOP state chairman Rob Gleason, and Bucks County businessman Pat Deon. Longtime operative David Urban has advised McCormick, as has Jim Schultz, an attorney in the Trump White House.

McCormick has also brought on some of Trump’s high-profile aides as early advisers, including Hope Hicks and immigration hard-liner Stephen Miller. Also on board is Cliff Sims, an aide who wrote a tell-all book that reportedly infuriated Trump. McCormick’s wife, Dina Powell McCormick, was a top Trump national security adviser.

Oz, by contrast, has campaigned as a celebrity outsider, much as Trump did. Sands, appointed by Trump as ambassador, is aiming to show that she is the most devoted to his ideology. Bartos has relied on his long-standing ties to GOP politics in Pennsylvania, banking on grassroots support to counter what he calls political “tourists,” while Bochetto dismisses his rivals arriving from out of state as “pretenders.” Barnette has also sought to appeal to fervent Trump supporters.

Oz has already spent more on television than McCormick, while Sands has also been advertising and brings her own personal wealth to the race.

Sands and Oz also only recently relocated to Pennsylvania. Oz, who went to the University of Pennsylvania for medical and business school but has lived in North Jersey for decades, says he began renting his in-laws’ home in Montgomery County in late 2020, about a year before he launched his campaign. Sands, who grew up in the Harrisburg area, long lived in Southern California before registering to vote in Pennsylvania again in January 2020, before Toomey announced his plans to leave office. She moved there after her time as ambassador ended, according to her campaign.

The entry of another multimillionaire foreshadows a hugely expensive primary, one upended in November when Parnell, Trump’s first pick in the race, dropped out amid domestic-abuse accusations. That collapse helped open the door for McCormick.

None of the Republican candidates has held elected office, a contrast to a Democratic primary that includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Philadelphia emergency-room doctor Kevin Baumlin.