Abortion rights in focus as Oz and Feltman clash in Pennsylvania Senate debate 2022 US midterm elections

Abortion rights took center stage Tuesday night in the debate for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, with celebrity doctor and Republican candidate Mohammad Oz saying the decision on abortion should be left to “women, doctors, local political leaders,” And John Feltman, the Democratic nominee, criticized the GOP’s hard-line stance.

The Harrisburg debate began with Oz, the former surgeon and longtime Dr. Oz TV host, discussing his desire to make “Washington civilized again.” Trump-backed Republicans say he wants to “unify, not divide.”

But Oz quickly returned to the 2022 Republican playbook, which features a combative character in races across the U.S., as he described Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Feltman as having a “radical stance.” “left-wing extremists”.

It set the tone for a controversial night as the couple clashed over abortion, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage ($7.25 is lower than in each of its six neighboring states) and the economy that has become Pennsylvania One of the most closely watched elections in the state. U.S.

Feltman and Oz are vying to replace retiring Republican Pat Toomey, and both are desperate for a win over Joe Biden as the Senate is evenly divided between the two parties. 80,000 state wins in 2020.

It was one of Feltman’s most high-profile appearances on the campaign trail, as he suffered a stroke in mid-May that left him with auditory processing problems and his brain struggling to understand spoken language.

To accommodate Fetterman’s condition (which he says is improving every day), two 70-inch monitors were placed above the moderators’ heads, showing transcripts of their questions and Oz’s responses.

John Feltman to participate in Pennsylvania Senate debate
John Feitman participated in the debate with the assistance of a monitor that displayed a transcript of the questions and answers. Photo: Greg Nash/EPA

“Let’s also talk about the elephant in the room,” Feltman said in his opening remarks. “I had a stroke. Yes [Oz] Never let me forget this. “

The Democrat was referring to the GOP campaign’s nasty attack on Feltman, with Rachel Tripp, an Oz aide, claiming that if Feltman “has eaten vegetables in his life” “, he probably won’t have a stroke.in Oz’s August campaign release What it said was the “concessions” it was prepared to make during the debate with Feltman, including a promise to “pay for any additional medical staff he may need on call.”

Oz has since tried to distance himself from the campaign’s tone, but recently said on Fox Business: “I don’t think the Senate has closed captions.”

Feltman, 53, released a report from his doctor last week saying he “has no work restrictions and can work full-time in public office,” but the doctor noted that Feltman had trouble processing some words.

In a TV interview in early October, Feltman said he sometimes left out words, or “blended” them together when speaking, and that sometimes his speech problems were apparent in debates. The Democrat seemed to have trouble finding certain words and took longer to answer questions than Oz while reading the on-screen captions.

“It knocked me down, but I’m going to keep getting up,” Feltman said of the stroke Tuesday. “This campaign is about, for me, fighting for everyone in Pennsylvania who’s been knocked down and needs to get back on their feet.”

The pair were asked about abortion early in the debate. Across the country, Democrats have drawn attention to the role Republicans played in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that was overturned in June. Republicans, especially in politically moderate states like Pennsylvania, have been trying to avoid the problem.

Asked: “Abortion should be banned in America”, Oz declined to answer directly, instead suggesting that “the federal government should not be involved” and states should be able to decide their own abortion laws.

“I want the women, the doctors, the local political leaders, to let the democracy that has always allowed our country to flourish, come up with the best ideas so that the states can decide for themselves,” said Oz, whose remarks were immediately mocked online.

Feltman said he would “work hard to rebuild” Roe v. Wade, which he said “should become law.”

“If you believe the choice of reproductive freedom belongs to Dr. Oz, then you have the choice. But if you believe that the choice of abortion belongs to you and your doctor, then I’m fighting for it,” the Democrat said .

Feltman, who served 13 years as mayor of Braddock, a small borough outside Pittsburgh, rose to prominence after the 2020 election when, as Pennsylvania lieutenant governor, he vigorously refuted Trump’s claims of voter fraud, At one point it was mentioned that the then-president was “no different from any other random internet troll.”

He also drew attention for his atypical – as a politician – appearance. The 6-foot-8 Feltman, who typically wears a hoodie on the campaign trail, has tattoos on his forearm, including nine on his right arm that mark the way people have been in Bra during his tenure as mayor. The date Doc was killed “through violence”.

John Feltman talks to supporters in Philadelphia
John Feltman gained attention during the campaign for his informal style. Photo: Kriston Jae Bethel/AFP/Getty Images

Oz, best known for hosting The Dr. Oz Show, a daytime television show about medical issues, said Tuesday that it “infuriates a lot of people.”

The show also promoted popular remedies and ineffective products, and Oz was repeatedly referred to as a “snake oil salesman.” In 2014, he was called to appear before a Senate committee, where he was condemned by senators for promoting a “miracle” diet pill that the medical community agreed did not work.

Feltman’s campaign tried to temper expectations ahead of the debate, releasing a memo on Monday saying the debate was “not John’s model” and pointing to some criticism of Feltman’s debate performance during this spring’s Democratic primary. Not very satisfied.

“John was five months after his stroke, and Oz has spent the past two decades in the TV studio; if there’s home-field advantage, it’s definitely his,” Feltman’s PR consultant Rebecca Katz told the New York Times.

Feltman’s remarks did put him off at times, but he pushed back against Republicans’ suggestion — repeated in countless TV commercials in the state — that he was “soft on crime,” noting that in the fight against Braddock Success in gun crime.

Olds, Feltman said, “has never attempted anything to try and solve a crime problem in his entire career other than showing up for photo shoots in Philadelphia.”

On the minimum wage, Oz said “market forces” would raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $7.25 — the lowest amount allowed by federal law and the lowest in decades when adjusted for inflation. salary.

Feltman said he “absolutely” supports the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding: “I think $7.25 an hour is a disgrace.”

As the debate drew to a close, both candidates were asked about their respective parties’ potential candidates in the 2024 presidential election. Feltman said he would support Biden if the president ran again.

Acknowledging Trump’s divisiveness and severe unpopularity in parts of the country, Oz was initially less ambiguous, saying only that he would “support whoever the Republicans come up with.”

One host reminded the audience that Trump supported Oz — a move Trump rarely gives to those who might have let him down — and asked Oz why he didn’t return that support.

That prompted Oz, perhaps noting the notoriously emotional and flammable nature of his supporters, to clarify his position.

“Oh, I do,” Oz said. “If Donald Trump decides to run for president, I will support him.”

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