Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz scored what in years passed might have been a surprise endorsement: a Philadelphia union's backing.
But in recent elections, as progressive Democrats like Oz's opponent, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, called for more holistic approaches to crime-fighting and criminal justice, the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 have separated themselves from the city's traditionally Democrat-supporting unions.
On Monday, the FOP endorsed Oz, citing his law enforcement-centric approach to violence prevention.
"We need, and this is very key, we need to have Dr. Oz in this position to support our law enforcement," FOP President John McNesby said at an event with Oz. "That’s the last thin line that the community has to be able to keep themselves safe."
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McNesby and the FOP were vehement opponents of Krasner's 2021 re-election, which the DA won in a landslide over his opponent, a former assistant district attorney who Krasner fired when he first took office in 2018. The FOP's support in that race wasn't the only local law enforcement endorsement. The Guardian Civic League, which is a coalition of minority city police officers, came out to support Krasner.
The FOP did split its endorsement across party lines, with Democrat Josh Shapiro getting the union's endorsement on Monday in the Pennsylvania governor's race. Shapiro, the state attorney general, faces Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
Crime and punishment is one of the biggest issues in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat, which is being vacated by current Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. He declined to run for a third term.
Democrats see the seat as a huge opportunity to hold onto control of the Senate, and Fetterman has been leading Oz in polls for months. The most recent poll, which was released last week, showed Fetterman with a 5-point lead over Oz.
Oz has consistently hammered Fetterman as too soft on criminals while Fetterman has pushed back that Oz is generalizing the Democrat's positions on criminal justice reforms.
As the Nov. 8 election nears, both candidates have begun appearing more regularly in southeastern Pennsylvania, where a large portion of the state's electorate lives and votes.
For decades, Philadelphia’s suburbs have been an important indicator of success for statewide candidates in the presidential battleground state, with the large number of swing voters there.
In the 2020 presidential election, those highly populated 'burbs were decisive in President Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania, with moderate GOP voters joining Democrats to produce an insurmountable deficit for Donald Trump.
For Oz, a celebrity heart surgeon and the former host of the daytime TV show “The Dr. Oz Show," turning around Trump’s suburban slump and gaining ground with moderates is critical.
Fetterman has made abortion rights a prominent theme in the suburbs to invigorate female voters after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Oz, meanwhile, avoids mention of Trump or abortion in the suburbs but paints Fetterman as soft on crime and unfit to serve because of a stroke he suffered in May.
Besides airing a laundry list of grievances with national Democrats and Biden, Haley, Oz and other speakers at the Springfield banquet hall warned the crowd that Fetterman wanted to make their communities less safe.
“He’s out trying to release people who’ve been convicted by a jury and sentenced by a judge for murder,” Oz said at the rally.
Fetterman, as lieutenant governor and chair of the state Board of Pardons, has pushed for more commutations of life sentences for people convicted decades ago of murder or as accessories to murder.
As Oz tries to shift the focus of the campaign away from abortion rights, the issue shows no sign of waning from voter's minds. Last week, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina proposed a federal 15-week abortion ban bill, which Democrats seized on as an example of the extreme policies that Republicans will pursue if they win control of Congress in November.
In a statement issued after Graham's proposal, Oz — who has said he opposes abortion from conception, but with exceptions to protect the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest —sidestepped a direct answer on what he thought of the bill.
“As a senator, he’d want to make sure that the federal government is not involved in interfering with the state’s decisions on the topic,” Oz's campaign said in the statement.
Noting Oz avoided saying whether he would support Graham's bill, Fetterman suggested that Oz's position of leaving the issue up to the states would result in far stricter bans in some places.
Fetterman's campaign says the abortion issue will be decisive in November — helping counter inflation and national political headwinds for Democrats — and featured it at Sunday’s “Women for Fetterman” event in the gymnasium of Montgomery County Community College.
“Women are the reason we can win,” Fetterman told the cheering crowd. “Let me say that again. Women are the reason we win. ... Don’t piss women off!”
Donna McMenamin, 66, a Republican from Folsom who supports abortion rights, said she was worried by one attack ad she saw on TV that claims Fetterman wants to release state prison inmates who are hardened criminals — which Fetterman’s campaign has called a lie. He has endorsed recommendations by prison reformers that the state can release more geriatric or rehabilitated prisoners without harming public safety.
Still, she said the most important factor in her vote was rejecting any candidate aligned with Trump, whom she detests. Instead, she will vote for Fetterman this year “because he’s not a Republican.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.