Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary headed to a recount

·4 min read

Pennsylvania's hotly contested Republican Senate primary is heading to a recount after unofficial results showed Mehmet Oz, the television personality turned political candidate backed by former President Trump, narrowly ahead of former hedge fund manager David McCormick.

Unofficial results showed Oz ahead of McCormick by 902 votes, acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman told reporters  Wednesday. Pennsylvania state law says that statewide races go to a recount if the margin between the top candidates is 0.5% or less.

Chapman said that McCormick did not waive his right to a recount by Wednesday's noon deadline, so she will issue a formal declaration for a recount by 5 p.m. on Thursday. Counties will be able to start the recount on Friday, but must start the process by June 1.

State officials said Wednesday that roughly 6,000 absentee ballots, including military and overseas ballots, and about 4,000 provisional ballots were still being canvassed and adjudicated. Officials did not on Wednesday  provide a breakdown of how many ballots were cast in the Republican primary from that batch.

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidates David McCormick, left, and Mehmet Oz during campaign appearances in May 2022 in Pennsylvania. / Credit: AP
Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidates David McCormick, left, and Mehmet Oz during campaign appearances in May 2022 in Pennsylvania. / Credit: AP

"We are proud our campaign received nearly 418,000 votes, won 37 of 67 counties, and contributed to a historic turnout with a razor thin difference between myself and Mehmet Oz," McCormick said in a statement Tuesday night. "The narrow difference triggers an automatic recount, and we look forward to a swift resolution so our party can unite to defeat socialist John Fetterman in the fall."

If the unofficial results hold and Oz is ultimately declared the winner, it will be a win for Trump, who endorsed and campaigned with Oz in the race. When the results are official, the winner will face Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the general election, who won the Democratic nomination last week.

Counties are supposed to finish counting by June 7 and submit results by June 8. This will be the seventh time the automatic recount provision established in 2004 has been triggered. In three instances, candidates waived their right to a recount, but when there have been recounts, the results of the election have not changed, Chapman said.

On Monday, McCormick's campaign filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania court asking that counties be required to count mail-in ballots that don't have a date written on the return envelope.

"These ballots were indisputably submitted on time— they were date-stamped upon receipt—and no fraud or irregularity has been alleged. The Boards' only basis for disenfranchising these voters is a technical error that is immaterial under both state and federal law," McCormick's lawsuit says.

The lawsuit comes after a federal appeals court in a separate case ruled Friday that these dates are "immaterial" under law and those ballots should be counted. That case stems from a local election in 2021. A state court previously said the undated ballots could not be counted in that race.

The Pennsylvania secretary of state's office told counties that they should count the ballots that lacked dates on the return envelopes, but keep them separated from the rest of the results. The state said it's yet to be determined whether to include these ballots in the final tabulated results.

The Republican National Committee and Pennsylvania GOP are intervening in the case to block the ballots from being counted. In 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that undated absentee ballots could be counted, but one justice who was with the majority said they shouldn't count for elections after 2020.

"Either of Pennsylvania's leading Republican Senate candidates would represent the Keystone State better than a Democrat, but Pennsylvania law is clear that undated absentee ballots may not be counted," RNC chief counsel Matt Raymer said in a statement.

The two candidates spent millions of dollars attacking each other on the campaign trail and in television advertisements. According to AdImpact, there was  $78 million spent in advertising for all candidates, making it the second most expensive primary so far in 2022. McCormick, Oz and their top allied groups spent about $55 million combined.

Oz and McCormick entered the race after Sean Parnell, the candidate who Trump initially endorsed, dropped out of the race after losing a custody battle.

Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette made a late surge in the race, but ultimately finished in third.

If Oz maintains his lead after the recount, it will be a second major victory for Trump in Pennsylvania. In the Republican gubernatorial primary, Trump-endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano easily won the GOP nomination.

In a speech on Tuesday night, Oz thanked Trump for his help. "God bless you, sir, for putting so much effort into this race," Oz told supporters.

Trump has had mixed results in other key primaries, with the former president's endorsed candidates suffering several high-profile defeats in Georgia on Tuesday night. Former Senator David Perdue failed in his attempt to defeat incumbent Governor Brian Kemp and Rep. Jody Hice lost to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Still, Trump has had wins in other high-profile Senate races, including Herschel Walker in Georgia on Tuesday night. In Ohio, Trump-backed J.D. Vance won his primary and in North Carolina, Ted Budd will be the Republican nominee.

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