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Dr. Oz brings Senate campaign to Lehighton

The midterm election race came to Carbon County Tuesday night as Dr. Mehmet Oz held a town hall meeting which turned into a televised campaign rally.

Dr. Oz, seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania, criticized pandemic restrictions, China and the Biden administration during a 90-minute session inside American Legion Post 314 in Lehighton. Surrounded by audience members in a format similar to the talk show he hosted for 13 years, Oz took numerous questions, occasionally giving them blood pressure tests as he answered them.

“I think I articulate the values people of Pennsylvania hold close to their hearts, and reflect the frustration and anger they have as well,” Oz said.

The longtime resident of New Jersey talked about being raised in Chester County and attending the University of Pennsylvania for his medical and business degrees.

He said he now lives in Montgomery County. Since launching his campaign in November, he has spent $5 million of his own money on the campaign, with much of it going to TV ads.

He spoke for about 45 minutes, opposing COVID school closures and vaccine mandates, and voicing support for the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to treat the virus. He said that China bears responsibility for the pandemic.

He also voiced support for guns, opposed critical race theory and abortion, and spoke about a commitment to small government and delegating power to the states.

People outside the rally said he addressed the issues that concern them.

“He was right on the money,” said John Petrizzo, who traveled from Monroe County to watch Oz speak.

Oz is the first candidate to visit Carbon County during the 2022 Senate race. The Lehighton Legion’s banquet hall was filled despite little advance notice of the event. According to Oz’s campaign, some people in the crowd were invited by phone, and the rest found out through Facebook posts.

At one point during the event, Oz held a live on-air interview with the conservative news network Newsmax, while people in the audience held up signs with his name and slogan, “A dose of reality.” Oz told host Greg Kelly that it was not a rally, but that he hoped to reach skeptical voters through a conversation.

“Many people came here curious, they weren’t actually going to vote for me, they didn’t really know enough about me to make a decision. I want you to be skeptical,” he said.

During the broadcast, Kelly asked Oz to poll undecided voters in the crowd. Several responded that he had earned their support. One man said that he supported Oz ever since he operated on his heart over a decade ago.

Outside the rally, people said that he was successful in making his case that he should be the party’s nominee.

“I didn’t come in with a favorite. I wanted to hear what he said, and I knew there’d be a lot of people with tough questions. He’s got my vote,” said Ed Miller, of Lehighton.

Others said that they were already fans of Oz, even before he ran for Senate.

“I love that man. I said, ‘please, do what you can.’ I worry about this world, the country. He’s wonderful. He’s a people person,” said Sandy Whiteman, of Lehighton.

Oz is one of more than a dozen candidates vying for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.

Other prominent candidates in the Republican field include David McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO; Carla Sands, a former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark; Jeff Bartos, former Republican nominee for lieutenant governor; and Carla Barnette, an Army veteran and Republican commentator.

The May 17 primary election also features over a dozen Democratic hopefuls.

Oz has reportedly struggled in early straw polls held by Republican county committees around the state. He also lags behind his opponents in terms of endorsements from other well-known politicians.

None of the area’s Republican state legislators were in attendance at the event. Lee Becker, Carbon County Republican chairman, introduced Oz but encouraged the crowd to support whoever wins the Republican nomination.

“Whoever wins on (May 17) I hope you will keep the fire in your heart and support that person whether it’s Dr. Oz or someone else,” Becker said.

Oz entered the room as “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra played over the speakers. He complimented the Legion’s Franz Kline mural of Lehighton, saying it embodied Ronald Reagan’s famous “shining city on a hill” quotation.

Oz said that he plans to win, but he will support whoever wins the Republican nomination.

The state GOP has not endorsed any of the candidates currently running in the primary. Neither has former President Donald Trump, after his preferred candidate dropped out of the race.

At one point in the event, answering a question about alleged voter fraud, Oz suggested that Trump supports his campaign.

“I once in a while get to call President Trump. This is the single issue that animates him the most. He argues that in particular, I will win, unless there’s fraud. That’s a problem,” Oz said.

Christine Rodrigues received a blood pressure screening on live TV from Dr. Mehmet Oz during his campaign stop in Carbon County on Tuesday night. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
Dr. Mehmet Oz made a campaign stop in Carbon County on Tuesday night. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
Dr. Mehmet Oz made a campaign stop in Carbon County on Tuesday night. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS