Democrat John Fetterman has won the hotly contested Pennsylvania Senate race against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, according to a projection.
DecsionDeskHQ made the projection at 1:15 a.m. on Wednesday.
The outcome concludes one of the most closely watched contests in this year’s midterm election cycle. The race was marked by controversy over Fetterman’s health issues following his stroke in May. Two weeks before residents of the Keystone State took to the polls, Fetterman had provided choppy responses during the only debate as Oz pressed the current lieutenant governor and former mayor of Braddock on his left-leaning platform.
For months after the primary contests, polls seemed to show Fetterman with a sizable lead over his celebrity surgeon rival. In the weeks leading up to the general election, however, Oz pulled into a dead heat with his opponent, with some polls placing him ahead by slim margins.
Oz, who had never run for public office, narrowly advanced from the Republican primary race against former Bush administration official and hedge fund executive David McCormick. The son of Turkish immigrants, Oz became the first Muslim to be nominated for a Senate seat by a major American political party. Meanwhile, Fetterman soundly defeated Congressman Conor Lamb and State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta in the Democratic primary, despite suffering a stroke mere days before Democrats cast their ballots.
Fetterman, a six-foot-eight, 53-year-old politician, is known for wearing basketball shorts and a hoodie to campaign events. Although his doctor had published a letter clearing him to run for office, Fetterman spent months away from the campaign trail. He then stumbled and slurred through remarks at multiple public appearances while his campaign dodged questions about whether Fetterman would debate Oz.
When the campaign’s sole debate finally took place, Oz repeatedly raised examples of conversations he has had with Pennsylvanians over the past several months, blasting Fetterman on his absence from the campaign and his refusal to release his medical records. Even with a closed captioning system positioned behind the moderators designed to aid his auditory processing, Fetterman struggled to remain coherent.
Mainstream media outlets had generally downplayed Fetterman’s condition. His wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, rebuked an NBC News journalist who reported that the nominee had problems understanding her even during small talk by calling for “some accountability” and labeling her “ableist.”
Fetterman stoked controversy as past comments and interviews surfaced throughout the campaign, showing that he has nodded to drug decriminalization and monitored injection sites, as well as defended Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who is currently under investigation from Republican and Democratic members of the Pennsylvania House for allegedly neglecting to enforce the city’s laws. In contrast to Oz’s success in the private sector, Fetterman received a salary of $1,800 during his tenure as mayor of Braddock, as well as five-figure annual allowances from his parents.
Oz produced unease among some conservative Pennsylvanians due to his uncertain degree of support for abortion. During the debate, when moderators pressed Oz to reconcile his support of rape and incest exemptions with his pro-life position, the candidate said that he would leave all abortion policy to the states. Democrats nationwide relied upon the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as a tailwind for producing high turnout.
Beyond social policy, surveys consistently showed that voters had their eyes on the economy and cost of living more than any other issues. One poll from ABC News and The Washington Post found that 84% of voters identified the economy as their top concern.