This story will be updated.
The hotly anticipated debate in Pennsylvania Senate race took place on Tuesday night – the only time this fall that Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman have shared a stage, as they each vied for a seat it could tip the scales in the equally divided upper house of Congress.
Considerable attention in the debate, organized by Nexstar, was on Fetterman’s health: The lieutenant governor suffered a stroke in May that sidelined him for three months and left him with lingering symptoms, including slurred speech.
Fetterman had monitors on stage to transcribe the words in real time and acknowledged at the start of the hour that he would sometimes stumble and mix up his words. He said he was working with a speech therapist and had auditory processing issues with spoken language, which neurologists say is not uncommon in stroke survivors.
Addressing his fitness for duty, Fetterman pointed to a letter from his doctor stating he was ready for “full duty” and described his stroke as a challenge many other people had faced and overcome.
“My campaign is to fight for anyone in Pennsylvania who’s ever been knocked down, who’s had to get back up. I’m also fighting for all the forgotten communities across Pennsylvania who’s ever been knocked down,” he said in his closing message. .
Oz, a doctor and popular television host, in his closing message told voters he would bring “balance” to Washington.
“I’m a surgeon, not a politician. We take big problems, focus on them and fix them, and we do that by uniting — coming together — not dividing. And by doing that, we’re moving forward. , ” he said.
During the debate, he and Fetterman argued over abortion access, public safety and crime, inflation and the minimum wage and more — and which of the two ran the more sincere campaign.
Fetterman accused Oz of lying frequently, both on the debate stage and in his television career, calling it the “Rule of Oz”. Oz then pushed back on the fact that one of Fetterman’s ads against him was taken down for being “dishonest” when his campaign had no such sanction.
Oz said Fetterman’s attacks on him, on his views on abortion restrictions and whether or not to cut Social Security and Medicare (which Oz said he opposed) amounted to a “campaign of fear”.
Fetterman presented Oz as being out of town and out of touch, repeatedly citing Oz’s wealth, numerous properties, and lack of roots in the state. “I believe it’s about serving Pennsylvania, not using Pennsylvania for their own interests,” he said.
Oz also returned to a key theme: that Fetterman was a “radical” as he sought solutions that served the entire state. He pressed Fetterman on Fetterman’s record at the Pennsylvania parole board, calling Fetterman weak on crime and public safety. And he said Fetterman would hurt the energy industry.
Fetterman insisted that he supported fracking – contradicting what he said in 2018, moderators noted – and that as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, he had worked successfully to fight against it. gun violence and had a proven track record of addressing public safety issues.
On abortion, Fetterman said he wanted to revive and codify into law the national abortion guidelines under Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court overturned this summer.
Oz said he would not support a federal ban on abortion — which some other Republicans have called for. He has described himself as “pro-life” and supports abortion restrictions with few exceptions, saying that in contrast Fetterman supports tax-subsidized abortion even until the last trimester.
On abortion and other issues, he described Fetterman as extreme.
Fetterman said he supports Roe’s guidelines, no more and no less, and should be the candidate of choice for voters who support a woman’s personal choice while Oz works to restrict abortion.
Oz rebutted Fetterman, who sought to cast him as more right-wing on abortion than he said on stage: Fetterman cut Oz’s time to link Oz to gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. Oz said Fetterman was trying to “scare” women.
Elsewhere, Fetterman said he supports legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double its current rate. Oz said he wants the minimum wage to be even higher than that, but driven by market forces, not law, through a plan to “liberate” energy companies from the state.
The polls have shrunk considerably, with Average of FiveThirtyEight now showing Fetterman ahead by less than 3 points, up from almost 11 points six weeks ago.