In home stretch, Fetterman highlights local roots as Oz leans on reputation

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

As the 2022 general election nears, U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman is debuting a series of hyperlocal ads that focus on the candidate's Pennsylvania ties.

In the York-area media market, where he grew up in Springettsbury Township, that focus is on his Republican parents, Susan and Karl Fetterman.

"John learned so much here in Central PA. His values, common sense and standing up for what is right," Susan Fetterman says in the ad.

"He's our son, but really he's a son of Pennsylvania," Karl Fetterman adds.

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That's one of five ads that target specific regions of Pennsylvania, ads meant to set the Democratic nominee apart from his opponent, Republican Mehmet Oz, by emphasizing Fetterman's Pennsylvania roots and efforts to cross partisan divide.

In contrast, his opponent Oz — and outside spending focused on Fetterman — have sought to attack the candidate for his positions on crime, the economy and inflation. That includes Fetterman's time as lieutenant governor on the Board of Pardons, which critics have attempted to use as a method to paint him as soft on crime.

"John Fetterman's proud of releasing a record number of felons early," a September ad from Republican-aligned super PAC Senate Leadership Fund tells voters. "Releasing dangerous murderers early? That's crazy."

The Senate Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the leading contributor of outside spending to this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.

In his own ads, Oz touts his background as a television personality on "The Dr. Oz Show."

"This economy is causing anxiety, depression, fear," Oz says, in one recent ad, arguing that economic troubles can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. "A doctor can help us fix it."

The ad strategies are in line with previous campaigns, analyst G. Terry Madonna said.

"The strategy is to run as many negative commercials on issues that the campaigns have researched that voters care about, and conversely to run positive attitudes for themselves against things that highlight their candidate's personal life, career," said Madonna, who has decades of experience polling voters and covering elections at Franklin & Marshall College and Millersville University.

The race between Oz and Fetterman has seen more than $130.6 million in outside spending, according to OpenSecrets.

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In the gubernatorial race, Democratic nominee and current state attorney general Josh Shapiro has run a multitude of ads against his Republican opponent, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, that highlight Mastriano's desire to ban abortion without exception.

According to reporting from Spotlight PA, outside spending in the governor's race has focused largely on defeating Mastriano. That includes super PAC Republican Accountability Project, which has spent nearly $850,000 against Mastriano.

Fetterman and Oz will go head-to-head in a debate Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ABC27.

The general election is Nov. 8. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot for the election is Tuesday, Nov. 1.

 — Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.