Mehmet Oz makes series of campaign stops in Philadelphia area

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Mehmet Oz took his Senate campaign to Philadelphia over the weekend, crisscrossing the city talking to potential voters and barbershop owners, and posing for a cheesesteak photo op that earned him mixed reviews.

Oz spent most of Saturday in West Philadelphia and Kensington, where his campaign said he spoke primarily with black and Latino business owners. On Friday, he stopped at Sarcone’s Bakery, Pat’s and Geno’s in South Philadelphia and a downtown restaurant where he was spotted chatting with a Democratic state representative.

“He’s heard a lot about crime, issues with access to things, what people need in these neighborhoods,” campaign manager Casey Contres said of the Kensington shutdown.

The blitz of campaign events was not announced in advance, and the campaign ignored many requests from The Inquirer to follow Oz on the trail. But Contres said that in Kensington’s case, the campaign wanted to give Oz a more intimate and private experience by walking around and talking to voters and those struggling with addiction.

“Those people aren’t really being heard, and that’s something he wants to talk about is how to talk to those communities and make sure they have a voice,” Contres said. “It doesn’t matter that he is a Republican. There was media throughout the day, but we did not make a review for this reason.

Still, most Oz events — including visits to eat cheesesteak or speak to small business owners — were carefully vetted, with specific media invited or none at all. Events are shared after they appear in emails and on social media in posed photos.

While Oz falls into a sort of bubble, his adversary, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, has yet to seriously hit the trail. Fetterman was out for 10 weeks recovering from a stroke on May 13. He participated in a volunteer event near Pittsburgh earlier this month and delivered brief remarks there. But he has yet to come back with any consistency and he hasn’t given a press interview since winning the nomination.

Oz often highlights his opponent’s absence, posting Fetterman’s face on a milk carton online and calling on him to stop hiding in a video posted last week.

Fetterman’s campaign only said he should return soon. Several fundraisers are planned for next week, but it’s unclear whether Fetterman will attend in person.

Oz, which won a hotly contested GOP primary that was subject to a recount, aims to improve his preference among voters. In early polls, the majority of voters polled said they viewed him negatively, and he had to fend off criticism that he was not a genuine conservative throughout the primary campaign. His campaign stops in Philadelphia are part of a series of stops in southeastern Pennsylvania and come at a time when the ground is clear with Fetterman off the track.

On Saturday, Oz stopped by ESPM Hair Zone and the Lancaster Avenue Jazz & Arts Festival in West Philly. He went to On Point Hair Studio in Kensington and then drove through the neighborhood to talk to residents.

In the late afternoon, he attended a barbecue with GOP leaders in the Northeast, where he spoke about crime in the city and the need for the party to cross the aisle on the issue. .

“I was very concerned about crime in Philadelphia. And when you travel, that’s the first thing people talk to me about,” he said. “And I’m like, ‘What can we do to improve it?’ Well, one of the issues is obviously enforcing the law, but our police officers are demoralized because they don’t feel valued by our community.

“If you just put your ears to the ground in Philadelphia, you hear something over and over again. …the Democratic Party doesn’t have a prosperity agenda – we need to get the message across that we have,” Oz said..

READ MORE: Mehmet Oz’s image took a hit in GOP primary

Oz encouraged Republicans at the Philly BBQ to have the courage to speak out in a Democrat-dominated city.

“I ask you to say what you see,” he said. “I know it’s hard. I know people are going to cancel you. They’ll come after you. I was attacked a lot before I entered politics for saying what I saw.

He says he sees a country “literally out of gas. I think Biden is out of time, and I think Fetterman is out of the question.

Jabari Jones, president of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, a neighborhood business network, said he was surprised to see Oz at the jazz festival, but noted that the famous doctor was warmly received.

“Look, Republicans in a statewide race very rarely come to West Philly,” Jones said. “It’s a rare post-primary visit for Democrats, because they kind of think, ‘This is a Democrat town, they’re going to vote for me.’ I have to have some respect for someone who at least shows up, even though they know there was a good chance it wasn’t widely received.

Jones, a conservative Democrat and likely candidate for city council next year, said he would likely vote for Fetterman but is concerned about how long the lieutenant governor has been off the track.

“You have to build momentum, especially now with the way our city operates,” Jones said. “He needs to get out into the community or he’s going to lose his support. People will recognize those who showed up versus those who didn’t.

READ MORE: What we learned about the money Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman raised

The weekend’s events followed trips to Pat’s and Geno’s on Friday, where Oz posted a photo at both locations, to mixed reaction. Geno Vento, the owner of Geno’s, posed with Oz in a photo, but Pat’s property had a more scathing reaction seeing that the contestant had passed.

“Do you even live in Pa?” And can you spell the city you live in? the official @PatsSteaks account tweeted, referring to Oz’s longtime roots in New Jersey and the misspelling of his hometown, Huntingdon Valley, on his official candidacy statement. Fetterman’s campaign also seized on the moment, calling Oz’s shutdown a standard act of “tourism.”

Politicians, cheesesteaks and the missteps that often ensue have a long history in the city.

Also over the weekend, Oz addressed the state GOP committee in Valley Forge and met with Montgomery County party leaders at an event with Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity up north. of Wales. He visited small businesses in Delaware County earlier this month.

Writer Chris Brennan contributed to this article.

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