Democratic Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was projected to defeat Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in the Keystone State’s closely-watched Senate race, boosting Democrats in their quest to keep control of the upper chamber.

With 85% of the expected vote in as of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Fetterman led Oz by more than 1 million votes and will succeed the retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. 

Fetterman appeared to be flabbergasted by his win as he took the stage for his victory speech, seemingly at a loss for words.

“I’m not really sure what to say here right now,” Fetterman admitted, before adding: “I’m so humbled, thank you so much.”

“I promise not to let you down,” an emotional senator-elect concluded after bringing up his family and reading prepared remarks.

The late-night call in the key Senate race came after Democrats and state officials had been warning for weeks that election results could be delayed for days because of a state law restricting when mail-in ballots could be counted. 

Fetterman held a consistent lead over Oz early in the campaign, but the Republican began to close the gap in mid-August after a near-fatal stroke Fetterman suffered in May knocked him off the campaign trail for several months. 

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman held a consistent lead over Dr. Mehmet Oz early in the campaign.
AP

Even after the Democrat returned to making public appearances, including attending a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh with President Biden, Fetterman still showed the debilitating effects of the stroke. 

In his first sit-down interview since the episode, given to NBC News in October, Fetterman needed a closed captioning monitor to understand a reporter’s questions and often struggled to speak clearly as he continued to experience auditory processing issues. 

The reporter, Dasha Burns, added to concerns about whether he could carry out the duties of a senator when she noted that Fetterman “had a hard time understanding our conversation” as they talked before the interview without the aid of the monitor. 

Dr. Mehmet Oz.
During his campaign, Dr. Mehmet Oz took shots at Fetterman’s health, saying Pennsylvania voters “deserve better.”
Getty Images

Beyond adding to the speculation about Fetterman’s health, the interview gave Oz an opening to take a shot at his rival.  

Oz said Pennsylvania voters “deserve better” than having Fetterman in the Senate.
“I don’t think there’s closed captioning on the floor of the Senate, and maybe he doesn’t need closed captioning when he’s actually moving around,” Oz, a heart surgeon, said days later on Fox News Business.

“But maybe he does. Again, lots of question marks and voters deserve better.”

Fetterman failed to alleviate concerns about his health when he met face-to-face with his political foe for their first and only debate on Oct. 25. 

Fetterman fans cheering after big win.
Fetterman accused Oz of moving to Pennsylvania from New Jersey for the sole purpose of running for office.
JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shuttersto

Asked about his apparent flip-flopping on fracking in Pennsylvania, Fetterman flubbed the answer. 

“I absolutely support fracking,” he said. “I have always supported fracking. I do support fracking and — I don’t, I don’t, I support fracking, and I stand, and I do support fracking.”

But Oz also took some heat that night when he argued against federal government intervention in abortion decisions, implying he would vote against a nationwide ban on most procedures after 15 weeks of pregnancy proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). 

“As a physician, I’ve been in the room when there’s some difficult conversations happening,” Oz said. “I don’t want the federal government involved with that at all. I want women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.

Mehmet Oz.
Oz accused Fetterman of being soft on crime in granting prisoners clemency as the head of the state’s board of pardons.
Getty Images

Several days after the NBC interview, Fetterman’s doctor, who made a number of donations to the campaign, released a note saying the candidate has “no work restrictions,” is recovering well, and “can work full duty in public office.”

Before the stroke took center stage in the Senate race, Fetterman hammered Oz as a carpetbagger, accusing the celebrity doctor of moving to Pennsylvania from New Jersey for the sole purpose of running for office. Fetterman also questioned Oz’s ability to relate to residents of the Keystone State

.In August, Oz released a campaign video of him picking out vegetables at a grocery store to represent the high costs people are dealing with because of inflation and said the ingredients were for a “crudité” platter. 

But Oz’s campaign reminded voters that Fetterman kept a light schedule while serving as lieutenant governor and that his wealthy family supported him financially while he was the mayor of Braddock, a small city outside Pittsburgh.

He also accused Fetterman of being soft on crime in granting prisoners clemency as the head of the state’s board of pardons.



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