Ad wars heat up in Pennsylvania’s crowded and combustible GOP Senate primary

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FIRST ON FOX: An outside group supporting Republican businessman Jeff Bartos in Pennsylvania’s increasingly divisive GOP Senate primary next week will launch a nearly $2 million ad blitz that showcases Bartos’ Keystone State roots and takes aim at two top primary rivals.

The new spot by the super PAC Jobs For Our Future is the latest commercial in the Republican primary’s expensive ad wars in the fight to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. The race in the key battleground state is one of a handful that could decide whether Republicans win back the Senate majority in November’s midterm elections.

Bartos, a real estate developer, philanthropist and the 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, last week showcased his home state roots in a new “Pennsylvania First” plan, in a digital ad and in media interviews. And without naming names, he charged that some of his top rivals in the race who had moved to Pennsylvania in recent months were “political tourists.”

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The ad by Jobs For Our Future, which by law is not allowed to coordinate with the Bartos campaign, seems to pick up where the candidate left off.

Over pictures of former hedge fund executive David McCormick and celebrity physician Dr. Oz, who are also running, the narrator in the ad claims that “out-of-state politicians are coming into Pennsylvania to buy a U.S. Senate seat. But conservative businessman Jeff Bartos knows Pennsylvania has never been for sale.”

The narrator in the ad, which was shared first with Fox News, then touts that “Jeff was born here, raised his family here, started a business and created jobs here. That’s why he helped save over 1,000 Pennsylvania small businesses in all 67 counties during liberal lockdowns. We can trust Jeff Bartos to crack down on illegal immigration, stand up to China, and fight for Pennsylvania jobs.”

McCormick, who on Thursday officially launched his Senate campaign, is a West Point graduate, Gulf War combat veteran and former Treasury Department official in former President George W. Bush’s administration. He’s also a Pennsylvania native who grew up working on his family’s Christmas tree farm. But before recently purchasing a home in Pittsburgh, McCormick lived in Connecticut for a few years.

But he spotlighted his Pennsylvania roots in his new TV commercial, as he stands in the gym at the high school in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where he was a star wrestler and emphasizes that “saving the Pennsylvania we love means fighting for it.”

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Oz, the cardiac surgeon, author and until he launched his campaign last month was the host of TV’s popular “Dr. Oz Show,” lived for years in New Jersey. But his campaign notes he registered to vote as a Republican a year ago in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, using the home of his wife’s parents in the Philadelphia suburb of Bryn Athyn as his residence. According to election records, he voted twice by absentee ballot in Pennsylvania in 2021. Oz also lived in the Keystone State decades ago, as he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school and Wharton business school in 1986.

The Oz campaign, responding to Bartos’ jabs last week, told Fox News Digital that “Dr. Oz is focused on empowering Pennsylvanians and winning back the Senate majority for Republicans.”

Jobs For Our Future said their ad will start running on Tuesday statewide on cable and connected TV, digital, and radio. They say the spot, titled “Not for Sale,” is the first in an ad blitz that’s expected to last 10 weeks. The group also said it expects a sustained ad push through the May 17 primary. Among those contributing to the super PAC is Scott Wagner, the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania.

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While the primary election is still four months away, nearly $12 million has already been spent by the campaigns and outside groups in the GOP Senate showdown. The biggest spenders to date – according to figures from AdImpact, a leading national ad tracking firm – are the Oz campaign ($4.7 million) and the McCormick campaign ($3 million).

And the campaign of Carla Sands, another leading candidate who served as ambassador to Denmark during the Trump administration, has spent $2.1 million. Sands, a Pennsylvania native who spent much of her adult life living in California, where she was a TV and movie actress and chiropractor before marrying prominent Republican campaign donor and real estate mogul Fred Sands, moved back to the Keystone State last year after her tenure as ambassador to Denmark came to a close.

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Bartos, McCormick, Oz and Sands are part of a group of 10 Republicans running for the Senate nomination.

Seven Democrats are running for their party’s nomination, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Conor Lamb. According to AdImpact, no money to date has been spent to run ads in the Democratic primary.

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