Millions pouring into Pa. governor and U.S. Senate races

Written by on February 2, 2022

Millions pouring into Pa. governor and U.S. Senate races

By Katie Meyer / Keystone Crossroads
February 2, 2022

This year, stakes are high and that means millions of dollars are being spent on Pennsylvania campaigns. (Photo |Tom Downing/WITF)

New campaign finance reports for Pennsylvania’s governor and U.S. Senate races are now public and the commonwealth appears to be on its way to its most expensive statewide elections ever.

To date, the most that has ever been spent on a Pennsylvania gubernatorial race was $82 million in 2014, and the most spent on a U.S. Senate race was $164 million in 2016.

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But this year, the stakes are especially high. Pennsylvania is one of the likeliest tipping points for control of the U.S. Senate, and the governorship could be the difference between continued split power in state government, or near-total GOP domination.

Plus, there’s no incumbent in either race.

Rich guy vs. rich guy

In his first filings of the race, longtime TV doctor Mehmet Oz, who recently was a resident of New Jersey, reported that he was responsible for much of the money in his own campaign account.

He loaned himself $5.2 million in the early days of the campaign, easily outstripping nearly every other candidate on either side of the aisle who has so far filed financial reports.

Former Bridgewater CEO Dave McCormick’s campaign is a little more of a black box. Because McCormick announced his campaign after the last financial reporting cutoff, he won’t have to disclose any fundraising or spending numbers until mid-April.

But, like Oz, the independently wealthy McCormick, who grew up in the state but only recently returned as a resident, is expected to be able to prodigiously self-fund his Senate bid.

Some signs of his likely political connections are also leaking out in PAC disclosures. Two large groups, Pennsylvania Patriots PAC and Honor Pennsylvania Inc., have been running ads across the commonwealth that are good for McCormick: accusing Oz of previously supporting the Affordable Care Act and of being a “Hollywood liberal.”

Honor Pennsylvania’s latest disclosure reveals several high-profile donors from the world of high finance, like hedge fund CEO Kenneth Griffin, who gave $5 million.

Jeff Bartos, the Montgomery County real estate developer who has sought to carve out a niche as a Pennsylvania insider among opponents with more tenuous ties to the state, has brought in more than $3.3 million since the start of the campaign, and spent nearly $829,000 — mostly opting out of the ad war into which McCormick and Oz have already sunk millions of dollars.

Though Bartos doesn’t have the personal wealth of his two most formidable opponents, he has so far loaned more than $1.2 million to his campaign.

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