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Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary: Dr. Oz, other candidates swipe at absent McCormick during forum

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Pennsylvania Republican primary contenders for U.S. Senate sparred against a candidate who was not there during a forum Saturday.Celebrity physician-turned Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and several others at the conservative Pennsylvania Leadership Conference forum Saturday did not debate each other, but many took turns jabbing at Dave McCormick over his wealth and alleged ties to China. Candidate George Bochetto, a Philadelphia attorney, alluded to McCormick as someone “who didn’t think his schedule was important enough to come and address the most important group in Pennsylvania that there is.”
 Dave McCormick, Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, greets supporters during a campaign event with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays in Coplay, Pa., on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. 
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Image)”And let me tell you this: I think it’s because he knew the subject of China was going to come up,” Bochetto added, before a moderator reminded him that the participants had agreed to not attack other candidates.For months, McCormick has faced criticism from other candidates in the race for making substantial investments in China while he ran the hedge fund Blackwater Associates from 2017 to 2021. McCormick has taken a hawkish position toward China throughout his campaign — vowing to end American dependence on China and touting his hard line against the country as a federal official under former President George W. Bush — but the other contenders in the race for Senate have not lessened their attacks on the issue.
Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidates Dr. Oz and Jeff Bartos cross paths while at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 25, 2022
(Fox News)Moments after Bochetto’s comment, Jeff Bartos sarcastically commented that he thought attacking McCormick was a bit harsh. “The traffic to get from Connecticut to Harrisburg on a weekend is terrible,” Bochetto quipped, eliciting laughter from the audience and the forum participants. McCormick grew up in Pennsylvania, but lived in Connecticut in recent years, where Bridgewater was based, before recently purchasing a home in the Pittsburgh area.FORMER HEDGE FUND EXECUTIVE MCCORMICK JUMPS INTO COMUSTIBLE SENATE PRIMARYMcCormick was absent from the forum due to scheduling reasons, his campaign told Fox News, and had committed to an event at a volunteer fire department and other events. As leading contenders in the Senate race, McCormick and celebrity physician Oz have been on the offensive against each other for months with China being one of the key issues. A Fox News poll in March found 24% of voters favored McCormick over Oz at 15%, with the other candidates trailing behind.PENNSYLVANIA GOP SENATE PRIMARY: DR. OZ, DAVID MCCORMICK TRADE FIRE OVER FRACKINGAt the forum Saturday, Oz took the opportunity to accuse McCormick of being a part of the decline of the American economy and speculated that his real reason for skipping the forum was to avoid tough China questions. “The reason Beijing Dave is not here is because he built the biggest hedge fund in China for over a billion dollars,” Oz said. “Why? Because they could make more money there, they thought, than here. Our commonwealth lost more jobs than any other state in America mainly because they were outsourced overseas. Much of it, by the way, by corporate leaders — Beijing Dave playing a role.”
Mehmet Oz, celebrity physician and U.S. Republican Senate candidate for Pennsylvania, center, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.
(Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images)McCormick’s campaign spokesperson Jess Szymanski said it was completely untrue that the candidate was avoiding discussing China.”From the battlefield to the boardroom, Dave has gone toe-to-toe with China his whole life and is the only candidate with real experience standing up to the Chinese Communist Party,” Szymanski said.”Dave’s track record holding China accountable — both in government and in business — will make him one of the strongest Senators in the whole Senate in holding China accountable and underscores his commitment to strong America First policies that will bring jobs and economic growth back to Pennsylvania.”  Every candidate on at the forum Saturday expressed support for America First policies in line with those of former President Donald Trump, and each said they would welcome his endorsement. However, candidate Sean Gale, after stating that Trump was the best president this country has ever had and that he welcomed his endorsement, said if he were advising Trump, he’d say “stop endorsing candidates. It’s not working.”Trump has yet to endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat, since his first pick for the seat, Sean Parnell, Parnell dropped out of the race last year in the middle of a custody battle with his estranged wife. Parnell endorsed McCormick, calling him “the America First candidate in this race” due to his military service and ties to Pittsburgh manufacturing. 
Sean Parnell walks through people gathered at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Pa. 
( AP Photo/Keith Srakocic,)The favorite among the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference attendees was Kathy Barnette, the only Black candidate in the race, who won the straw poll by huge margins. She took a subtle dig at wealth, without naming McCormick or anyone, pointing out the importance of choosing a persuasive candidate.”Democrats are going to come out with guns blazing. I don’t care how much money you have, right? We keep picking people who the richest person in the room — y’all know that doesn’t matter,” Barnette said. “Or else we will be saying, ‘Madam President Hillary Clinton.’ We need people who will fight for us.”

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