Recapping Tuesday's PA Senate Debate
HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Just two weeks before the election, eyes from around the globe were on last night’s U.S. Senate debate in Harrisburg.
The first and only televised debate between Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman drew national and international attention as the two candidates duked it out on several major policy issues. The stakes could not have been higher in the race that can determine which party holds a majority in the U.S. Senate
“I'm running to serve Pennsylvania. He's running to use Pennsylvania,” said Fetterman in his opening statement.
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just five months ago, utilized closed captioning in last night and addressed his stroke early in the debate.
“And let's also talk about the elephant in the room, I had a stroke. I might miss some words during this debate, mush two words together. It knocked me down, I'm going to keep coming back up,” said Fetterman.
Fetterman stumbled with answers throughout the debate, especially during rapid questions or exchanges with Dr. Oz. When asked by moderators if he would release detailed medical records, Fetterman said he’s already been transparent and referenced the confirmation from his doctor that said he is fit to serve. After the debate, Fetterman’s campaign called it a standout performance, given his circumstances.
“John Fetterman performed great tonight, for a man who was in a hospital bed just several months ago,” said Joe Calvello, a spokesperson for the campaign. “His doctor has said he is fit to serve,” he added.
Members of the Oz campaign said it was a disaster for Fetterman, and declared a big victory for the celebrity heart surgeon, who is no stranger to performing on television.
“He (Fetterman) is one of the most radical, extreme left-wing politicians running for office this year,” said Barney Keller, a spokesperson for the Oz campaign.
The candidates did address several major policies and top-of-mind issues for Pennsylvanians, like minimum wage.
“I think it's a disgrace at $7.25 an hour,” said Fetterman. “I’ve always supported a living wage, making sure everyone has economic security,” he added.
“I think market forces have already driven up the minimum wage,” said Dr. Oz, who also spoke about negative impacts on small businesses that he believes would become inevitable with an increased minimum wage.
Another top concern among voters: Public safety and crime.
“I'm the only person on this stage right now that has been successful about pushing back against gun violence and being the community more safe,” said Fetterman.
“We have taken away the ability of police to do their job, and that's on John Fetterman,” said Oz.
Candidates also touched on some major nationwide issues, like expanding the Supreme Court. Both candidates agreed SCOTUS should not be packed and should be left as is.
On abortion, Oz, who is pro-life, believes abortion access should remain up to the states. His campaign said he believes in exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
Fetterman indicated he would fight to codify Roe v. Wade if elected.
The candidates were also asked about the 2024 Presidential election. Fetterman said he would support a second Biden term, and Oz said he would support former President Donald Trump if he were to run again.
Aside from international attention, the debate also drew large crowds of supporters and protesters. Some Oz Supporters like Corinne Seechrist say he wasn't her first choice, but a Trump endorsement sealed the deal.
“I don't know him. I don't know what he's like, but President Trump does and he endorsed him and I believe President Trump is a very wise, compassionate and good man,” said Seechrist. “If Republicans don’t win, it is a surety that we are going to lose our country,” she added.
As for Fetterman supporters, they say they stand firm behind their candidate.
“He hits all the buttons for me. He's a good Liberal man and I like that. That's all about what I'm all about,” said John Abbott, a Fetterman supporter who’s also concerned about protecting Democracy. “You vote for what's right, and what's right is people that don't deny that we have an honest man in the White House right now who won the election fair and square,” he added.