HARRISBURG, Pa. — Editor's Note: The above video is from April 13.
Leading candidates for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat met Monday night for their first live-televised prime-time debate in an increasingly expensive primary race in which former President Donald Trump just made an endorsement.
Trump earlier this month endorsed Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon best known as daytime TV’s host of “The Dr. Oz Show.” Oz appeared alongside four others at the studio of WHTM-TV in Harrisburg for the one-hour debate.
They are: conservative activist Kathy Barnette; real estate investor Jeff Bartos; ex-hedge fund CEO David McCormick; and Carla Sands, Trump’s ambassador to Denmark.
All five met the polling threshold set by the station's parent company as they vie for the nomination to succeed retiring two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in the presidential battleground state.
The campaign is one of this year’s premier Senate contests, with carpetbaggery a prominent and persistent issue following the recent arrival of three wealthy and well-connected candidates from other states — McCormick, Oz and Sands. It was the first question in Monday night's debate.
The race is also an expensive duel between McCormick and Oz, who combined — with super PACs that support them — have reported spending more than $37 million.
One of the other topics that garnered heated responses between Oz and McCormick tonight was attack advertisements.
"These are ads primarily run by one of my opponents, Mr. McCormick, and they are designed to try to fool the electorate," Oz said.
In response, McCormick said, "It's just disingenuous for Mehmet to say that when Mehmet has so many dollars coming in his pocket from China that it is sort of mind boggling."
Meanwhile, all of the candidates were asked if they believed there were any exceptions to abortions, an issue that again highlighted the divide between Oz and McCormick.
"There should be an exception for the life of the mother," Oz said. "We don't want mothers dying as they try to give birth to a child."
"Mehmet has flipflopped on every major issue," said McCormick. "You can go to his own comments May 21, 2019 in an interview with The Breakfast Club — he essentially said that he was worried about the pro-life movement that was creating fights."
Despite the divide, all of the candidates agreed that they would handle the COVID-19 pandemic differently than President Joe Biden.
"The American Rescue Plan was a disaster," said Bartos. "Employers cannot find employees. When people are not working, nothing works."
Sands echoed these comments, saying, "It's the out of control spending — I'll stop it the day I arrive in Washington."
The primary election is May 17.