When Republican Sen. Pat Toomey announced in 2020 that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection, the field of candidates for his seat crowded quickly. Many Democrats saw the open seat as a chance to gain representation in the Senate, and pull Pennsylvania out of its swing state status.
The fifth-most populated state has long bounced between political affiliations, and has been represented by the same two senators — Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey Jr. — since 2011. The candidate that wins the seat next month will be the first fresh face representing the state in more than a decade.
The Republican candidate vying for the seat is Mehmet Oz, who’s running his first campaign for elected office. He spent his earlier career as a University of Pennsylvania-educated cardiothoracic surgeon, then a professor and more recently, as a television personality on “The Dr. Oz Show.”
Oz entered the race in late 2021. Among his key issues are severely limiting or ending access to abortion, overhauling the healthcare system and supporting the Second Amendment, per his campaign site. He’s aligned himself ideologically with former president Donald Trump, who gave him an endorsement earlier this year, and has wavered on whether he believes the 2020 presidential election was legitimate. But over the summer, Oz dropped some of that messaging as well as his endorsement from Trump from his campaign communications.
Oz is running against Democrat John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. The pair have been sparring, mostly over social media, including Fetterman taking jabs at Oz’s New Jersey residency, and Oz questioning Fetterman’s abilities after he suffered a stroke earlier this year. (Also: crudité.) The two are set to debate Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. (Here’s a breakdown of where you can watch.)
As the tech, STEM and innovation industries hold pivotal roles across regions in Pennsylvania, Technical.ly contacted the two candidates running for each the US Senate seat and the Pennsylvania governor’s race with a survey about their proposed policies. In the survey, we asked how the candidates will address issues of internet access, education, business resources, startup growth and technology regulation. Read Fetterman’s responses here.
In responses to our survey, Oz favored workforce development around STEM careers, broadband access increases, and a government that would “not interfere with economic growth,” though he didn’t mention specific plans for these ideas. He also said he approved of better understanding evolving technologies like AI and cryptocurrencies while “balancing the need for national security protections.” Read more about his platform below. (Links added by Technical.ly for context.)
Technical.ly: What are your plans to bring resources (education funding, programs, etc.) to Pennsylvania for workforce development, and how do technology and STEM jobs fit into this plan?
Mehmet Oz: We are facing real challenges when it comes to our workforce. Our schools need to better prepare our children for careers in the American workforce with real-life skills. This means expanding access to vocational training, supporting STEM education, and offering pathways to community colleges. Improving education opportunities for our students will bolster the American workforce for years to come. I know Congressman Glenn Thompson has been a leader on these and I look forward to working with the Pennsylvania delegation to make our economy strong.
Resources to increase access to broadband internet were deployed to Pennsylvania. Will you continue seeking resources, and can you speak to what you’d do with the existing funding?
Broadband has received more funding over the years, and I hope to see that continue. Congress must go beyond appropriating funding by ensuring federal dollars are efficiently distributed to state and local levels. With 15 federal agencies responsible for federal funding, Congress must provide oversight to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively.
What do you consider the role of the government to support broadband and other digitally enabling infrastructure?
The federal government should assist state and local governments in building out broadband. This funding must be targeted and administered at the most local level.
How will you address “brain drain” from higher education hubs in Pennsylvania, and incentivize skilled workers to stay?
We need to create an environment that encourages economic growth. Industry leaders must be confident that the federal government will not interfere with economic growth. For example, Pennsylvania can be a leader in natural gas development. Congress should allow the fast-track completion of pipelines, create a healthy permitting structure, and expand [liquefied natural gas] export capacity. The same goes for other fields that require skilled workers: Get the government out of the way and allow industries to prosper.
What specific plans do you have to support entrepreneurs and small businesses setting up shop in Pennsylvania?
The government should help small businesses become big businesses by implementing policies that encourage growth. Washington has been quick to raise taxes on businesses while spending trillions of dollars we don’t have. With record high inflation, Congress has no choice but to reign in wasteful spending while creating policies that encourage growth. For example, the federal government should make the small business tax deduction permanent.
What would you do to make Pennsylvania a friendly place for high-growth tech and STEM startups?
The STEM and high-growth industry is growing fast, leading to an abundance of high-paying jobs in Pennsylvania. As a senator, I can work with state and local officials to create more university-employer partnerships in Pennsylvania. Allowing students to build these relationships in school will not only encourage them to study STEM but will also help retain them in Pennsylvania.
What do you consider the role of policymakers for emerging technologies like AI, cryptocurrencies and quantum computing?
Policymakers must create a regulatory environment that encourages growth of these technologies while balancing the need for national security protections. It is imperative that America makes headway on these technologies before our adversaries do.
What do you consider the role of policymakers for capturing the obstacles and opportunities of rising remote work?
Remote work has transformed our economy and a lot of businesses are still learning how to best utilize it. I do not believe the government should implement policies that favor one work style over another. However, Congress paying people not to work is bad policymaking. There are an estimated 10 million jobs open in the country. Congress should support policies encouraging job growth and employment: reigning spending, cutting regulations, and lowering taxes.