Pro-Israel Groups Spend Big in Tight Senate Race Between Fetterman and Oz

The Pennsylvania midterm election has seen both Democratic Majority for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition writing big checks for John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz, respectively, in key battle

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
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Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – With the Pennsylvania race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz increasingly seen as the key Senate election in these midterms, Jewish groups are spending big to help their respective parties emerge victorious – and likely win control of the U.S. Congress.

Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee will announce a six-figure mail program on Tuesday, targeting swing voters by highlighting GOP candidate Oz’s record on reproductive rights, Haaretz has learned.

“John Fetterman is a proud pro-Israel progressive with deep roots in the Keystone State and a strong connection to hard-working Pennsylvanians,” said DMFI PAC Chairman Mark Mellman.

“Unlike his out-of-touch, carpetbagger Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Fetterman will work to increase incomes and decrease costs for all Pennsylvanians – and fight for women’s freedom to make their own decisions about abortion,” he added.

The ads show Oz being recorded calling abortion at any stage “murder,” while saying he doesn’t support any federal rules limiting state laws on abortion. This could lead to complete bans in states such as Pennsylvania, where access to reproductive health care is currently legal.

“Dr. Oz has been clear. A vote for him brings Republicans one step closer to having the power to pass a national abortion ban,” one mailer reads.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, earlier this month.Credit: Mark Makela - AFP

Another mailer details how Oz could be the deciding vote in the Senate on such a ban and details how a national abortion ban would cover all cases – including rape, incest and to protect the health of the mother – while criminalizing abortion-providing doctors.

The PAC’s significant investment in the Pennsylvania race comes hours before the two candidates face off in a high-stakes debate – the only-such debate in this race. It comes five months after Fetterman’s stroke left him with an auditory processing disorder. This impacts his ability to filter and interpret sounds, and necessitates closed captioning to follow conversations. While this has not impacted his cognitive abilities and his doctor has stated that he has no work restrictions, Oz’s campaign has turned Fetterman’s health into a campaign issue.

Disability advocates and medical experts have decried the attacks, but polls have recently narrowed to the point where the race is within the margin of error (with Fetterman currently leading by 2.7 percentage points).

While its current expenditure is significant, Mellman’s PAC has been supporting Fetterman ever since his primary victory in May, citing his efforts in reducing economic inequality, reforming the criminal justice system, advocating for women’s rights and supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

Other Jewish organizations backing Fetterman include the J Street PAC, which has raised $200,000 for him and was the first group to hold a virtual fundraiser for him upon his post-stroke return to the campaign trail.

Jewish Democratic Council of America’s PAC has also backed the lieutenant governor, and will have spent more than $300,000 in Pennsylvania by Election Day on November 8.

JDCA volunteers have also sent nearly 150,000 text messages to Jewish voters in the state through JDCA PAC, and will continue this effort through Election Day. There are an estimated 435,000 Jews in Pennsylvania, or about 2.30 percent of the population.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s Victory Fund, meanwhile, notably spent $1.5 million last month in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets, attacking Fetterman in ads aimed at the Black community. The ads, which will run through Election Day, mark the single-largest ever RJC Victory Fund spend on a Senate campaign.

The attack ad describes a 2013 incident, where Fetterman pursued and pulled a shotgun on an unarmed Black jogger, as “outrageous vigilantism” that is “absolutely disqualifying for someone wanting to be a United States senator.”

Fetterman has defended the incident, arguing that he did not know the man’s race and that he heard gunshots near his home before seeing someone run from the area. He also said he never pointed the shotgun at the man – a claim the jogger disputes.

“John Fetterman’s actions betrayed the trust of the African-American community and demonstrated his abysmally poor judgment,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks has said.

“To compound this outrage, John Fetterman – to this day – has never apologized to the victim, Christopher Miyares, to the Black community or to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he added.

Oz’s campaign co-chairman Jeff Bartos, who unsuccessfully ran in the Republican primary earlier this year, is a major figure in the Republican Jewish Coalition and spoke at a pro-Oz RJC event in August that saw former U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman endorse the TV personality.

The RJC has held fundraisers throughout the state while doing grassroots engagement in the Jewish community.

Elsewhere, the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC is making an additional six-figure digital ad buy in Ohio, looking to boost Emilia Sykes in her congressional race against GOP opponent Madison Gesiotto Gilbert – similarly highlighting the latter’s positions on abortion.

The RJC, meanwhile, is backing Gilbert on the grounds that Sykes is “a typical denizen of the ‘swamp’ in Columbus,” and that Gilbert will be a “workhorse, not a show horse.”

The DMFI’s PAC has now spent six figures in support of three candidates this cycle: Fetterman, Sykes and Rep. Elaine Luria, the pro-Israel Democrat who is facing a highly competitive race against fellow U.S. Air Force veteran Jen Kiggans in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.

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