Where Dr. Oz lives becomes a campaign issue in the Pennsylvania Senate race

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Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, faced the usual amount of attacks from his opponent, Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman – but much of it was unusually focused on one topic: where Oz is. was alive.

For decades, as Fetterman’s campaign is quick to point out — in memes and on social media and through former reality TV stars they hired to make videos about it — Oz lived in a multi-million dollar house, which he still owns, overlooking the Hudson River in New Jersey.

“I heard you moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania looking for a new job,” Nicole LaValle, better known as “Snooki” from “Jersey Shore” told MTV. a video released by Fetterman’s camp last month, addressing Oz. “I know you’re far from home and in a new place, but Jersey won’t forget you.”

Fetterman fired a similar waterfall with actor-musician Steven van Zandt, of “Sopranos” and E Street Band fame, and his campaign paid for a plane to fly over the Jersey Shore with a banner that read “Hey Dr. Oz! Welcome home to NJ! Love, John.”

Oz — who attended medical school and married in Pennsylvania — moved into a house owned by his wife’s family in the Philadelphia suburb of Bryn Athyn in late 2020, according to his team. He and his wife still reside there pending renovations to a home they recently purchased in the city, according to campaign spokeswoman Brittany Yanick.

“Pennsylvania is his home and it’s where he spends virtually all of his time, other than necessary trips out of state for fundraising,” Yanick said in a statement to ABC News this month. .

She did not respond to a question about Fetterman claiming Oz filmed a campaign ad from his New Jersey home; she also did not respond to a question about a report that Oz traveled to Ireland after winning his primary in June.

Oz himself told The Associated Press earlier this month, “People don’t really care where I’m from. They care what I stand for.”

Yet the chatter about his roots – much of it on social media – hasn’t diminished, in part because of his own comments: This week, The Daily Beast published a video of him during a campaign stop saying he owned two homes, when public records show he owns 10 residential properties in multiple states and countries.

According to The Daily Beast, the video, which was not obtained by ABC News, was filmed by a Democratic campaign agent who does not appear to have revealed his identity or told Oz he was being filmed.

Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman speaks during a rally at the Bayfront Convention Center August 12, 2022 in Erie, Penn.

Nate Smallwood/Getty Images

In a statement Wednesday, Yanick said Oz was only referring to his Pennsylvania homes. Oz backed that up in a tweet responding to Fetterman: “I have 10 properties (disclosed on announcement). 2 houses. My turn: when can we debate?”

His spokeswoman said: “Dr Oz lives in Bryn Athyn, he is currently living in the same house he got married in while the property they purchased is being renovated. These are the two properties which he was referring to.”

From the start, Fetterman tried to ridicule Oz as elitist and out of touch — not just for the latest comments about his homes, but also for a recently resurfaced months-old video showing Oz grocery shopping for raw veggies. In the video, Oz appears to confuse the names of two local grocery store chains (Redner’s and Wegmans) as he reads ingredient prices in an effort to show the effects of runaway inflation.

“In PA, we call it a… vegetable platter,” Fetterman tweeted. His campaign said it raised more than $500,000 within 24 hours after the video went viral on Monday.

Fetterman calls Oz an intruder. Oz calls it much ado about nothing – and has its own lines of attack, including trying to tie Fetterman to unpopular President Joe Biden and noting Fetterman’s prolonged absence from public while recovering from a stroke cerebral. The Oz team has released a running Basement Tracker.

The attacks fueled by Fetterman echo familiar fights between candidates with one being the most authentic. Whether the criticism will turn voters away from the surgeon and former talk show host is an open question.

“It’s a factor, [but] it’s not the predominant factor,” Edward Ulrich, 77, a registered Democrat in suburban Pittsburgh who calls himself a former split-ticket voter, told ABC News.

Paulette Keiffer, a self-proclaimed moderate who “takes the candidate who is the best,” said she believes Oz is running for selfish reasons.

“I don’t think he should be racing in this condition,” she told ABC News. “I don’t believe he is sincere in his portrayal of this state.”

Meanwhile, Wendy Saddler, a 52-year-old registered Republican in Ben Salem, she said wasn’t bothered by the candidate’s New Jersey ties.

“I believe he is sincere in his intentions,” she told ABC News.

A Fox News poll of registered Pennsylvania voters released in late July found that more than half of those polled worried that Oz didn’t know enough about the state to represent it. The survey also revealed that 45% of Oz contributors had reservations about it.

But in a year in which Democrats on the ballot face major headwinds — amid high inflation, low Biden approval ratings and lingering economic and management woes of the country — some experts believe concerns about Oz won’t keep Republicans from voting for him this fall. The GOP is pushing for every victory as it seeks to regain control of Congress.

PICTURED: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz shakes hands with supporters at the Capitol Diner, Aug. 12, 2022, in Swatara Township, Pennsylvania.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz shakes hands with his supporters at the Capitol Diner, Aug. 12, 2022, in Swatara Township, Pennsylvania.

Sean Simmers/The Patriot – News via AP

“There are so many Republicans who will come home with him,” Josh Navotney, a Philadelphia-based Republican consultant, told ABC News, calling Fetterman too progressive. “Soft support is always a vote at the end of the day. A vote is a vote.”

“I would be more worried if that [Fox News] poll was taken at the end of September and the Republicans had not yet returned,” Navotney added.

In interviews with ABC News, several local Republican leaders expressed similar optimism.

“I don’t see that as a big deal with our constituents,” said Bucks County Republican Party chairwoman Patricia Poprik. “When you ask them, they may respond, but that doesn’t stop them from staying and supporting us.”

Glenn Geissinger, the party’s chairman in the swing county of Northampton, told ABC News: “I’m very comfortable with the fact that [Oz] is a Pennsylvanian,” adding that during a campaign stop in his county, Oz “talked about the things that people really care about.”

Geissinger said that at a recent event, Oz confronted “a few rowdies” who told him “to go back to New Jersey”, but he added that “a lot more were excited to see him and enjoyed being with him. and took pictures with him.”

Oz’s campaign also seeks to harm Fetterman as the face of Democratic national policies that Oz says have hurt the wallets of Pennsylvanians.

Two new ads paid for by the Oz campaign call Fetterman a “radical” and link him to Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“John Fetterman’s campaign may make memes, but he can’t find a match with voters concerned about the disastrous Biden-Fetterman agenda,” Yanick, the spokeswoman, told ABC News.

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