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2022 Pennsylvania Senate race: John Fetterman projected as winner over Mehmet Oz

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CBS News projects John Fetterman flips Pennsylvania Senate seat by defeating Mehmet Oz 02:09

CBS News projects that Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will win the Pennsylvania Senate race against Republican Mehmet Oz in what's been a tight race, giving Democrats a pickup in the evenly split Senate. The two were vying for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.

Fetterman tweeted his thanks to Pennsylvanians shortly before thanking them in person after 1 a.m. Wednesday.

He told cheering supporters early Wednesday morning, "I never expected that we were ever going to turn these red counties blue, but we did what we needed to do and we had that conversation across every one of those counties, and tonight, that's why I'll be the next U.S. senator from Pennsylvania."

Oz said in a statement Wednesday morning that he had called Fetterman to congratulate him.

"Campaigning throughout our great Commonwealth was the honor of a lifetime," Oz wrote, thanking his supporters for their efforts.  "... We are facing big problems as a country and we need everyone to put down their partisan swords and focus on getting the job done."

Women backed Fetterman by 15 points, slightly higher than the 11-point margin President Joe Biden won women by in the state in 2020, according to exit polls. Pennsylvania is one of the only Senate battlegrounds where abortion topped inflation as the most important issue for voters, boosted by women picking abortion as their top issue.

Fetterman won voters who said honest and integrity was the most important quality they were looking for in a candidate, and he won those who were looking for a candidate who cared about people like them.

The senator-elect is still recovering from a stroke he suffered right before the May primary that left him struggling with his speech and auditory processing throughout the general election season. He did not return to the campaign trail until August.  

John Fetterman addresses supporters 07:25

Voters were split evenly as far as whether Fetterman's health was a concern. Fifty-five percent of voters say Oz has not lived in Pennsylvania long enough to represent the state effectively in the U.S. Senate. Exit poll percentages may have updated since this post was published.

Oz, a TV celebrity and heart surgeon, trailed Fetterman by double digits over the summer, but made up ground late in the highly contentious race. 

Eran Ben-Porath contributed to this report.


The race

Despite the stroke he suffered in May, Fetterman, 53, handily won the Democratic nomination with the support of all 67 counties. His motto on the campaign trail has been "Every County. Every Vote." 

He didn't return to the campaign trail until August, and Fetterman continues to struggle with auditory processing. He has been using closed captioning to read the questions in interviews. But Fetterman's doctor said in October that his recovery is progressing and that overall, he is doing well. The doctor stated he has "no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office." 

Pennsylvania Senate candidates make closing arguments 01:54

Fetterman's health was a political target on the campaign trail, where Oz and others called on him to release his medical records. His challenges were evident during the lone Pennsylvania Senate debate on October 25, where Fetterman used closed captioning to answer questions. During the debate, he said he was running for every Pennsylvanian who had ever been knocked down but had to get back up. 

On the campaign trail, Fetterman called for pro-union policies, raising the minimum wage, abolishing the filibuster, decriminalizing marijuana, protecting abortion rights and affordable health care. He accused Oz of being out-of-touch with Pennsylvanians, arguing he's a celebrity doctor from New Jersey.

He also painted Oz as an extremist on abortion. During their only debate, Oz said the federal government should not be involved in abortion decisions but left it to "women, doctors, local political leaders."

Fetterman was also one of the few Democrats on the trail who didn't try to distance himself from President Biden. The two appeared together on Labor Day just outside Pittsburgh, and they were together again in late October for a fundraiser in Philadelphia. 

Fetterman is a native of York, Pennsylvania, and he later moved to Braddock, an old steel town outside Pittsburgh, to start a GED program. He eventually ran for mayor, a post he held from January 2006 until he was elected lieutenant governor in 2018. 

Oz, the son of Turkish immigrants, grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. If elected, he would be the country's first Muslim senator. The 62-year-old doctor made his name appearing with Oprah Winfrey and then on "The Dr. Oz Show." (Oprah endorsed Fetterman over Oz last week.)

Oz was a longtime resident of New Jersey but changed his voter registration in late 2020 to Pennsylvania, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In November 2021 he announced his Pennsylvania Senate bid. About a month before the May primary, he was endorsed by former President Trump. He won the primary against former hedge fund CEO David McCormick by less than 1,000 votes. Oz has put about $25 million of his own money into the campaign. 

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Oz focused on crime and accused Fetterman of wanting to release a third of inmates. He has also gone after Fetterman for some of his votes as chair of the state board of parsons, which is part of his responsibility as lieutenant governor. Oz also used his stump to talk about rising costs and energy independence. 

By Sarah Ewall-Wice
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