Fetterman and Oz face off in Pennsylvania Senate debate: updates

This story will be updated.

The much-anticipated debate in Pennsylvania’s Senate race took place Tuesday night — the only time this fall that Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman shared a stage as they both vied for a seat that would evenly balance the balance in the divided leadership of Congress could determine Chamber.

Fetterman’s health received a lot of attention in the debate moderated by Nexstar: The lieutenant governor suffered a stroke in May that sidelined him for three months and left him with lingering symptoms, including speech disorders.

Fetterman had monitors on stage to transcribe words in real time, and early in the lesson acknowledged that he would occasionally trip over them and muddle his words. He has said he works with a speech therapist and has some auditory processing problems with spoken language, which neurologists say is not uncommon for stroke survivors.

Addressing his fitness for office, Fetterman referred to a letter from his doctor saying he was ready for “full service,” and described his stroke as a challenge many other people have faced and one that he overcame.

“My campaign is about fighting for everyone in Pennsylvania who’s ever been knocked down and had to get back up. I also fight for every forgotten church across Pennsylvania that has ever been crushed,” he said in his closing message.

Oz, a doctor and popular TV host, told voters in his closing message that he would bring “balance” to Washington.

“I’m a surgeon, not a politician. We take on big problems, we focus on them and we solve them, and we do this by uniting – by coming together – not by division. And that’s how we move forward,” he said.

During the debate, he and Fetterman debated access to abortion, public safety and crime, inflation and the minimum wage and more — and which of the two was campaigning more sincerely.

PHOTO: Members of the media watch Republican nominee Mehmet Oz on a television monitor as he takes on Democratic Senate nominee for Pennsylvania John Fetterman during the candidates' only debate in Harrisburg, Penn. October 25, 2022.

Members of the media watch Republican nominee Mehmet Oz on a television monitor as he takes on Democratic Senate nominee for Pennsylvania John Fetterman during the candidates’ only debate in Harrisburg, Penn., October 25, 2022.

Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA via Shutterstock

Fetterman accused Oz of lying frequently, both on the debate stage and in his television career, calling it the “Oz Rule.” Oz later denied that one of Fetterman’s charges against him had been withdrawn for “dishonesty,” while his campaign had no such penalty.

Oz said that Fetterman’s attacks on him, his views on abortion restrictions and whether or not to cut Social Security and Medicare (which Oz said he opposed) amounted to “fear mongering.”

Fetterman referred to Oz as out of town and out of touch, repeatedly invoking Oz’s wealth and many qualities and lack of roots in the state. “I think it’s about serving Pennsylvania, not using Pennsylvania for their own interests,” he said.

Oz also returned to a key theme: that Fetterman was a “radical” while seeking solutions that served the state as a whole. He pressed Fetterman on Fetterman’s record on the Pennsylvania Parole Board and called Fetterman weak on crime and public safety. And he said Fetterman was doing the energy industry an injustice.

PHOTO: A handout photo provided by abc27 shows Democratic nominee Lt.  gov.  John Fetterman (L) and Republican Senate nominee from Pennsylvania Dr.  Mehmet Oz (R) shaking hands prior to their debate in Harrisburg, Penn. on October 25, 2022 .

A handout photo provided by abc27 shows Democratic nominee Lt. gov. John Fetterman (L) and Republican Senate nominee from Pennsylvania Dr. Mehmet Oz (R) posing prior to the Nexstar Pennsylvania Senate debate at WHTM abc27 in Harrisburg, Penn., Oct. 25. 2022.

Greg Nash, Handout via EPA via Shutterstock

Fetterman insisted he supports fracking — contrary to his 2018 comments, moderators noted — and that as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, he has worked successfully to curb gun violence and has a track record of addressing issues of public safety.

On abortion, Fetterman said he wanted to change the Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court struck down this summer, will revive and codify into law.

Oz said he would not support a federal ban on abortion – which some other Republicans have called for. He has described himself as “pro-life” and supports abortion restrictions with few exceptions. In contrast, Fetterman supported tax-subsidized abortion even into the last trimester.

On abortion and other issues, he described Fetterman as extreme.

PHOTO: Members of the media prepare to cover the Pennsylvania Senate debate between Democratic nominee John Fetterman and Republican nominee Mehmet Oz in Harrisburg, Penn., October 25, 2022.

Members of the media prepare to cover the Pennsylvania Senate debate between Democratic nominee John Fetterman and Republican nominee Mehmet Oz in Harrisburg, Penn., October 25, 2022.

Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA via Shutterstock

Fetterman said he supports Roe’s policies, no more, no less, and should be the nominee chosen by voters who support a woman’s personal choice while Oz would work to restrict abortion.

Oz countered Fetterman, who was actually trying to brand him as more right-wing on abortion, when he said onstage: Fetterman cut Oz’s time to link Oz to gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. Oz said Fetterman tried to “terrify” women.

Elsewhere, Fetterman said he supports legislation to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double its current rate. Oz said he wants an even higher minimum wage, but driven by market forces, not laws, over a plan to “unleash” the state’s energy companies.

The polls have narrowed significantly, with the FiveThirtyEight average now putting Fetterman ahead by less than 3 points, compared to almost 11 points six weeks ago.

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