After an extraordinary race marked by vitriolic social media feuding, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated his Republican opponent, celebrity television physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, in Pennsylvania’s Senate contest five months after suffering a debilitating stroke.
Addressing a packed room of cheering supporters at his election party in Pittsburgh, Fetterman rubbed his eyes and said he did not really know what to say.
“Every county, every vote,” he said, repeating his campaign slogan. “We jammed them up. We held the line. I never expected that we were going to turn these red counties blue.”
The contest received more buzz and advertising money than any Senate race in the nation. The Associated Press called the race, though official results will take longer. Fetterman held a firm lead by 1:30 a.m. Eastern, with 49.9% of the votes compared with 47.7% for Oz
The national political stakes were high. After Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey’s decision to retire, Democrats were eager to pick up a seat in the key swing state that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. Meanwhile, Republicans aimed to keep the seat as part of their plan to seize control of the Senate.
As personalities, Oz and Fetterman upped the ante, embracing an aggressive back and forth of viral snark and aggressive social media trolling. A Trump supporter and longtime television personality who until recently lived in New Jersey, Oz cast himself as a moderate Republican looking to control inflation and rein in crime. Fetterman, the plain-spoken former mayor of Braddock, ran as an anti-establishment figure in tune with blue-collar voters on economic issues.
In April, Fetterman pummeled Oz for his performance in a 35-second video that showed him pulling broccoli, asparagus, carrots and guacamole off a grocery store shelf and blaming Biden for the cost of “crudité.”
“In PA, we call this a Veggie Tray,” Fetterman snarked in his own video, appealing to supporters to donate to his campaign and help send Oz packing.
Fetterman received a significant setback in May when, just days before the state’s primary, he suffered a stroke.
The Democratic candidate was forced to cancel campaign events. Still, in the middle of August, Fetterman held a commanding lead of 12 percentage points over Oz in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls. But by election day that advantage had eroded, with polls showing the race a toss-up with Fetterman leading by just 0.1 point.
Oz released a barrage of campaign ads on crime to chip away at Fetterman’s lead. In late October, when the two candidates met for their one and only debate, Fetterman delivered an uneven performance, stumbling over his words and struggling to articulate points on abortion rights and fracking.
In the final stretch of the campaign, Fetterman talked readily about his health struggles and his ongoing recovery. At a rally in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Fetterman acknowledged his recent speech challenges, joking about stepping onto the stage before former President Obama.
“Here’s a pro tip,” he told the crowd. “Please, if you are gonna give a speech after you’ve been recovered from a stroke, you really don’t want to have to come before Barack Obama.”
Obama was just one of a flurry of national political heavyweights, including President Biden and Trump, who touched down in Pennsylvania over the weekend.
Get our Essential Politics newsletter
The latest news, analysis and insights from our politics team in D.C.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Obama castigated Oz for his dubious medical claims as a TV doctor — “If somebody’s willing to peddle snake oil to make a buck, then he’s probably willing to sell snake oil to get elected” — and also hit back against Republicans on the economy, stating that the GOP liked to talk about inflation but had no solutions.
“What’s their answer?” he said. “What’s their economic policy?”
Stumping for Oz in the small town of Latrobe, about 35 miles east of Pittsburgh, Trump stuck to general talking points.
“If you support the decline and fall of America, then you must vote for the radical left Democrats,” Trump told the crowd. “If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American dream, then this Tuesday, you must vote Republican.”