Candidates parachuting into Pa. to run for our U.S. Senate seat a troubling development

FILE - This Dec. 4, 2019 file photo shows Dr. Mehmet Oz at the 14th annual L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Gala in New York.  Oz, joins the Republican field of possible candidates aiming to capture Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat in next year's election. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
  • Pat Toomey is not running for reelection as a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.
  • That seat is drawing interest from candidates who recently established residency in the state.
  • To qualify as a U.S. Senator, candidates only need to establish residency in the state..

Let’s start by saying that what they are doing is perfectly legal.

The U.S. Constitution makes that abundantly clear.

That’s not the same, however, as saying it’s right. In fact, it’s downright troubling.

Three well-heeled Republicans are candidates (or will almost certainly soon be candidates) for Pennsylvania’s soon-to-be open U.S. Senate seat. Each has decided (or appears ready) to parachute into our state in an attempt to claim the office currently occupied by two-term Sen. Pat Toomey, who has decided not to seek reelection.

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To be fair, all three have Pennsylvania roots, to some degree. Still, none of the three were bona fide state residents until recently.

The three folks in question are Dr. Mehmet Oz of “Dr. Oz Show” fame; Carla Sands, Donald Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark; and David McCormick, CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds.

Oz and Sands have already formally announced their Senate bids, while McCormick gives all the appearances of doing so. His television ads appear to run on a near-constant loop.

David McCormick is the CEO of one of the world's largest hedge funds and a former senior official in President George W. Bush's administration.

Changing addresses: Oz, a longtime New Jersey resident, changed his voter registration to his in-laws’ Pennsylvania address last year and has said he is now a state resident.

Sands, a central Pennsylvania native, spent the majority of the last four decades in California before taking the post as Trump’s ambassador to Denmark. She returned to Pennsylvania in early 2021, renting a condo overlooking the Susquehanna River.

McCormick is also a Pennsylvania native and recently bought a house near Pittsburgh. For more than a decade, however, he has lived in Connecticut.

All three are privately wealthy and have gobs of money to spend. All three have recently moved to Pennsylvania from states that are typically Democratic strongholds, meaning all three have little chance of winning statewide offices in those states. Pennsylvania, however, is a different story. It’s a battleground state, meaning both Democrats and Republicans can (and have) won statewide offices here in recent years.

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Thus, Oz, Sands and McCormick see an opportunity to gain a U.S. Senate seat they couldn’t win in their previous states.

Carpetbagger accusations: Naturally, and with some justification, the carpetbagger accusation has been hurled against all three, and not just from Democrats, but also some Republicans.

It’s also an indication of how so many statewide elections have been nationalized in recent years, especially in bellwether states, such as Pennsylvania, which have the potential to swing control of our sharply divided Congress.

There is nothing legally that can be done to keep Oz, Sands or McCormick from running for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat. To serve as a U.S. senator, a constitutional qualification is to be an inhabitant of the state when elected. Obviously, it’s not a very stringent requirement.

By comparison, a candidate for the state Legislature must be a resident of Pennsylvania for four years.

Such moves are nothing new, of course, and have been used by both parties over the decades, including the victorious U.S. Senate runs in New York of Hillary Clinton (2000) and Robert F. Kennedy (1964), both Democrats.

If we had our druthers, we’d like to see the U.S. Constitution amended to make such carpetbagging runs harder. In fact, we’d like to see the four-year residency requirement needed for the state legislature to also apply to U.S. Senate runs, but there’s zero likelihood that will happen.

So, it will be up to Pennsylvania’s Republican voters at the May 17 primary.

Are they OK with ultra-wealthy office hunters parachuting into their state at the last minute in order to claim a U.S. Senate seat?

We hope the answer to that question is no.