PA-Sen: Army veteran Sean Parnell has continued his run for the Republican Senate nomination in the weeks since his estranged wife testified under oath that he’d choked her and hit their children, but an unnamed source close to the campaign tells Politico that an adverse court ruling could end his bid. “His entire campaign comes down to whether he keeps custody of his kids or not,” says this source, who added that the Trump-backed candidate would stay in if he prevailed in the custody battle.
Plenty of Republicans, though, want alternatives regardless of whether Parnell, who has denied the allegations, remains in the race, but at the moment, there isn’t an obvious savior candidate in sight. Several others are currently competing in the May primary, but Politico says that each of them has their drawbacks. Jeff Bartos, the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, has argued that the allegations against Parnell make him “unelectable,” a line that could turn off both Donald Trump and Parnell’s backers.
Former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands has been spending millions of her own money on ads, but Politico says she “has not gained much traction.” A few others are also in including author Kathy Barnette, a Big Lie promoter who badly lost in the safely blue 4th Congressional District last year, but they also don’t appear to have made much of an impression, either. The good news for Parnell’s intra-party critics is that there’s plenty of time before the March filing deadline for new candidates to enter the race.
The bad news, though, is that one of those new candidates may be Mehmet Oz, the TV personality who has a long history of dispensing what medical experts have warned is false advice. The conservative Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month that Oz was getting ready to run even though the longtime New Jersey resident has little connection to Pennsylvania, and Politico confirms that he’s been looking for a home in the Philadelphia area; Oz cast his ballot in New Jersey last year, though he registered to vote in the Keystone State two months later.
Oz, the story says, hasn’t yet committed to a Senate campaign, and several of his fellow Republicans hope he won’t. One party strategist relayed, “There’s no one who thinks the solution to the Sean Parnell issue is Dr. Oz.” Other party officials, including some chairs in voter-rich counties, said he hadn’t even contacted them yet, while an unnamed NRSC source said they didn’t believe national Republicans had spoken to him either.
Some hostile party operatives aren’t waiting, though, to spread opposition research about Oz, including his March 2020 quote calling for the United States to follow China’s example by imposing temporary lockdowns to slow the pandemic. If he runs, his foes are also likely to remind voters that Oz called himself a “moderate Republican” back in 2007.
A few other Republicans could also get in. Politico says that former Rep. Keith Rothfus, who badly lost re-election in an incumbent vs. incumbent 2018 race against Democrat Conor Lamb (who is currently running for the Senate himself), is interested in competing in a Parnell-free primary. Rothfus merely said, “Simply put, Sean Parnell has no plans to drop out of the race for Senate,” and he didn’t respond to follow up questions.
Hedge fund manager David McCormick also has reportedly been looking at running, though the Connecticut resident has yet to say anything publicly. Insiders don’t seem to agree what he’s up to, either: the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari tweets that “the info on him runs the spectrum from likely to enter the race soon to definitely not.” Finally, while Politico said back in March that attorney John Giordano and former Secretary of the Nav Kenneth Braithwaite were each interested, it now notes that so far, those “campaigns haven’t materialized.”