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Republican ‘carpetbagger’ candidates for U.S. Senate take heat from primary competitors

Three Republicans with swanky out-of-state addresses — Mehmet Oz, Carla Sands and David McCormick — are vying for a Senate nomination in Pennsylvania as primary competitors cry foul.

Mehmet Oz watches play during the women's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, in this file photo from last year. 
 Oz is running in the wide-open race for the Pennsylvania seat being vacated by two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Mehmet Oz watches play during the women's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, in this file photo from last year. Oz is running in the wide-open race for the Pennsylvania seat being vacated by two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.Read moreElise Amendola / AP

Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate derided as “carpetbaggers” made it easy for their primary competitors in a forum Wednesday evening.

They didn’t show up. And the competitors made sure the crowd in Lawrence County, on the state’s border with Ohio, heard about it.

Jeff Bartos of Lower Merion opened with a knock on candidates known for swanky addresses in other states — Mehmet Oz of New Jersey, Carla Sands of California, and David McCormick of Connecticut — joking that “being a lifelong Pennsylvanian is a distinguishing characteristic in this campaign.”

Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator from Montgomery County, closed the forum on a harder note.

“I think it’s very interesting that the three carpetbaggers who are in this race, who have galloped into our state, saying they’re going to listen to us and work for us and yet they’re not here at all because they don’t care about you,” she said. “These very wealthy people are going to phone it in from their penthouses.”

George Bochetto, a Philadelphia attorney who entered the race this week, came out swinging at the outsiders, who all have substantial past ties to Pennsylvania. He punched hardest at Oz, the famous television doctor known for his New Jersey mansion overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

“Why can’t he just admit he’s been living in New Jersey for the last 30 years?” Bochetto said in an interview. “Why does he have to lie to the people and say, ‘I’m a Pennsylvanian’? It’s really insulting to the voters’ intelligence.”

Bochetto’s backers on Saturday registered a new super PAC, From Pennsylvania for Pennsylvania, to hammer home the point. Wealthy businessman Tom Knox, who invested more than $10 million in a failed 2007 bid for mayor, is the super PAC’s assistant treasurer and told Clout he plans to contribute “a substantial amount” in an effort to raise about $5 million.

Money is, as always, a major factor since the accused carpetbaggers are all wealthy, making them potentially competitive self-funders. They are already the top Republican television spenders in the race, according to the advertising tracking firm AdImpact, with Oz at $4.6 million, McCormick at $3 million, and Sands at $2 million.

Oz, who now says he is renting a Bryn Athyn home owned by his wife’s parents, went to medical and business school at the University of Pennsylvania, got married here, and saw two of his four children born here.

Sands, appointed ambassador to Denmark by former President Donald Trump, notes that she grew up in the Harrisburg area and registered to vote in Pennsylvania in 2020, nine months before Sen. Pat Toomey announced that he would not seek a third term.

McCormick grew up in Bloomsburg and, while officially joining the race Thursday, touted himself as a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian who has owned his family’s Christmas tree farm there for more than a decade.

At the Farm Show, the doctor will see you now

A pair of Democratic Senate candidates who are also medical doctors took Oz to task this week after he roamed the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Sunday, offering to check the blood pressure of people attending. This all happened, of course, in the shadow of the show’s half-ton butter sculpture.

Oz, who used an automated machine rather than a manually inflated blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, posted video on Twitter of himself testing a man — both maskless — by slipping the cuff over the arm of his flannel shirt.

Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh, an anesthesiologist, seized the opportunity to note the many accusations that Oz has pushed bogus COVID-19 treatments and got famous touting magical fat burners on television.

“Thinking of the damage this quack would do as a U.S. Senator should raise all our blood pressure,” Arkoosh told Clout in an email.

Kevin Baumlin, a Philly emergency-room doctor, accused Oz of “bad medical practice.”

“Making a show out of taking blood pressure measurements at this time, without displaying proper infection control protocols, is irresponsible and unethical,” he told Clout.

Oz’s camp pushed back, saying that “many Americans have been hurt ignoring chronic heath issues due to COVID-19 fears” and that his “small tips and advice can go a long way” toward helping them.

Northeast Democrats unite behind Dillon

Well this is a change of pace. Democratic ward leaders in Northeast Philadelphia have agreed about something.

The ward leaders with divisions in the state Senate’s 5th District met Monday and unanimously selected one of their own, 66A Ward leader Shawn Dillon, 56, as a candidate for a special election.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who presides over the Senate, on Saturday set the special election for the same day as the primary election, currently May 17.

Two state representatives, Ed Neilson and Mike Driscoll, along with former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III had expressed interest in the seat, now open because former State Sen. John Sabatina Jr. was sworn in last week as a Common Pleas Court judge. Dillon was the only person nominated for the opening.

Party factions in Northeast Philly have been openly at odds for seven-some years. Dillon, who retired this year from the state Auditor General’s Office, said Monday’s vote signals the end of that strife.

“I think that stuff is all behind us,” he said. “I think we’re all moving in the same direction here.”

The Republican City Committee did not respond when asked this week about selecting a candidate for the special election.