Profile pictures of US Senate Pennsylvania candidates John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz from BallotPedia

Welcome to the race for the US Senate seat for Pennsylvania! This race for an open seat pits the Democrat John Fetterman, the current Lieutenant Governor of the state, against the Republican Mehmet Oz, popularly known as “Dr. Oz,” a retired heart surgeon and television personality. 

Pennsylvania voted reliably Democrat since 1992 with the election of President Bill Clinton, but the state became a swing state when it voted for Trump in 2016 before switching back to the Democrats with Biden in 2020 (by just over one percentage point, or about 80,000 votes). Voter turnout in Pennsylvania’s 2020 election was the highest since statistics began to be kept in 1960, with 71% of eligible voters turning out, showing that Pennsylvanians are aware of their swing state importance. The open Senate seat is due to the retirement of incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, who won reelection in 2016 by only 2 percentage points, while Pennsylvania’s other Senator, Bob Casey, is a Democrat who handily won reelection in 2018 by 13 points. Fetterman is well known in the state as the current Lieutenant Governor and touts himself as a lifelong Pennsylvanian, including previous service as the mayor of Braddock from 2005 to 2019. Oz is criticized as a “carpetbagger” (a person who moved to the state for the purpose of running for office in this election—in Oz’s case, late 2020), but Fetterman’s stroke in May 2022 has raised concerns about his health. Although Fetterman maintains a lead, the race has tightened in the past month. Coupled with the high-profile governor’s race, Pennsylvania’s elections are receiving national attention—and money—this election cycle.

An important note for this election season: Traditionally, the “party in power,” defined as the party in charge of the US presidency (which this year is the Democratic Party), loses seats in the midterm elections. But two additional competing trends are at play. On the one hand, the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 shifted momentum toward the Democrats (see 538 and NYT analysis at these links). But the continued economic concerns about inflation and gas prices work in the Republicans’ favor (see Politico and CNN analysis at these links). The race in Pennsylvania is one of the top nine Senate races to watch in the 2022 election, and its outcome will help determine which party controls the US Senate in January 2023. 



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Relevant news stories:

  • Video: “How John Fetterman Became A Democratic Favorite In Pennsylvania,” FiveThirtyEight, May 13, 2022
  • Article: “Pennsylvania Stakes Its Claim as Center of the Political Universe,” New York Times, September 2, 2022
  • Article: “Fetterman Says Stroke Problems Have Not Slowed Down a ‘Normal’ Campaign,” New York Times, September 15, 2022
  • Article: “Fetterman’s Push for Clemency Becomes an Attack Line for Oz,” New York Times, September 27, 2022
  • Article: “Fetterman’s Blue-Collar Allure Is Tested as Pennsylvania Race Tightens,” New York Times, October 8, 2022
  • Video: “John Fetterman Keeps Going Viral. How Is His Senate Campaign Doing?,” FiveThirtyEight, October 10, 2022
  • Article: “What Attacks On John Fetterman’s Health Reveal About Disability And Politics,” FiveThirtyEight, October 13, 2022
  • Video: “The Three Races Bringing Down Democrats’ Odds Of Holding The Senate,” FiveThirtyEight, October 14, 2022
  • Article: “Pa. Election Day 2022: A complete guide to the Nov. 8 election,” Pittsburgh Tribune, October 17, 2022
  • Article: “Behind Oz’s Crime Attacks Is a Play for the Philly Suburbs,” New York Times, October 17, 2022
  • Article: “As Shapiro and Fetterman run as a ticket, Mastriano and Oz avoid each other,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 17, 2022
  • Podcast: “Three Weeks Out: Mini-Episode,” Pennsylvania Kitchen Table Politics, October 20, 2022