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Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary clash: Bartos calls top rivals ‘political tourists’

Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bartos of Pennsylvania charges that some of his top rivals for the GOP nomination in the crucial battleground state’s open seat race are “political tourists.”

And Bartos, a real estate developer, philanthropist and the 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, showcased his deep Keystone State roots in his new “Pennsylvania First” plan that the candidate unveiled this week, as well as in a new statewide digital ad and an interview with Fox News.


“The contrast in the race is pretty clear. We have a group of candidates who’ve parachuted into Pennsylvania because they see an opportunity to further their interests,” Bartos charged in his interview. “I’ve been referring to them as political tourists or Airbnb candidates.”

Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bartos of Pennsylvania

Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bartos of Pennsylvania
(Jeff Bartons Senate campaign)

Bartos, who last March launched his bid to try and succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in a race that could determine whether the Republicans regain the Senate majority in this year’s midterm elections, touted that “my whole career has been focused on Pennsylvania.” 

“I’m running to continue to serve Pennsylvania while others are running for Pennsylvania to serve them,” he charged.

While Bartos didn’t name names, it’s pretty clear whom he was targeting. 

At the top of his likely list is well-known celebrity physician Mehmet Oz. The cardiac surgeon, author and host of TV’s “Dr. Oz Show” five weeks ago jumped into the race as he declared his candidacy.


Oz 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 affluent Philadelphia suburb of Bryn Athyn as his residence. According to election records, he voted twice by absentee ballot in Pennsylvania in 2021. Oz 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’ comments, told Fox News that “Dr. Oz is focused on empowering Pennsylvanians and winning back the Senate majority for Republicans.”

Dr. Oz discusses his Senate campaign platform and vision for America's future Video

Bartos was also likely referring to David McCormick, a hedge fund executive, West Point graduate, Gulf War combat veteran and former Treasury Department official in former President George W. Bush’s administration, who’s likely to launch a Senate in the coming days. McCormick, who last month set up an exploratory committee and who’s gone up with TV ads the past couple of weeks, this week resigned as CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, Connecticut-based Bridgewater Associates, ahead of a likely campaign announcement.

McCormick, whose wife Dina Powell McCormick was a top national security adviser in former President Trump‘s administration, grew up in Pennsylvania, where his family has deep roots, but has lived in Connecticut in recent years. The McCormicks recently bought a home in the Pittsburgh area.


Another top rival is Carla Sands, who served as ambassador to Denmark during the Trump administration. The Pennsylvania native 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. 

Sands took over her late husband’s real estate investment firm after his death and helped raise money for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. She moved back to Pennsylvania last year, after her tenure as ambassador to Denmark came to a close.

Bartos noted in his interview that he was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and raised in Berks County, and that he and his wife, Sheryl, raised their family and started their businesses in Montgomery County in suburban Philadelphia.

“For me, this whole campaign has always been about saving Main Street Pennsylvania,” Bartos emphasized.

“For us, the Pennsylvania First plan is an expansion of that effort,” he noted, “to take the learning and to take the issue that we hear about every day on the campaign trail from our fellow Pennsylvanians and make sure that we’re putting those concerns, those worries, those hopes and dreams into action, into a plan that addresses the issues most important to Pennsylvanians.”

Bartos’ plan includes proposals to tackle key issues to Republican voters, such as crime, immigration, election security, economic prosperity and dealing with threats from China. But at the top of his plan, Bartos touts his strong ties to the state, arguing that he “stands alone as the only candidate with meaningful ties to the state and a proven conservative record of bringing jobs to the state.”

It’s a similar theme in the candidate’s digital ad which spotlights his plan. 


Bartos told Fox News that he’ll be pushing the same theme in the weeks and months ahead in TV and radio ads to “make sure the voters of Pennsylvania know the contrast between” him and his rivals, who he once again negatively characterized as “these political tourists.”

Bartos is one of eight declared GOP candidates running in the May 17 primary. Seven Democrats are running for their party’s Senate nomination, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Conor Lamb.

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 


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