Pennsylvania has 3.45 million registered Republican voters. On primary election day, 39% of them (1,345,612) voted in person, by mail, or absentee. Of the Republicans who voted in Pennsylvania’s closed primary, 31.29% (420,000) voted for Mehmet Oz, one of seven Republican candidates on the ballot.
Dr. Oz has been officially declared the winner, by the narrow margin of 951 votes. Thus, 31.29% of 39% of eligible Republican voters chose Dr. Oz – even as 68.71% of those voters preferred other candidates. (Does our primary system seem healthy to you?)
In April, Donald Trump endorsed Dr. Oz. “This is all about winning elections in order to stop the Radical Left maniacs from destroying our Country,” the former president wrote in a statement, “The Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a tremendous opportunity to Save America by electing the brilliant and well-known Dr. Mehmet Oz for the United States Senate.”
“Perhaps most importantly,” the former president continued, “I believe that Mehmet Oz will be the one most able to win the General Election against a Radical Left Democrat looking to do unthinkable harm to our Country. Women, in particular, are drawn to Dr. Oz for his advice and counsel ... They know him, believe in him, trust him. Likewise, he will do very well in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where other candidates will just not be accepted.”
None of the Republican senatorial candidates ran opposed to President Trump’s Make American Great Again (MAGA) brand. David McCormick, the hedge fund executive who finished the close second in the balloting, served as Undersecretary of Treasury in the George W. Bush administration and was offered the position of Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration. His wife, Dina Powell, served as a deputy national security advisor in the Trump White House.
The third-place finisher, Kathy Barnette, touched a nerve when she said: “MAGA does not belong to President Trump. Although he coined the word, MAGA actually belongs to the people. Our values never, never shifted to President Trump’s values. It was President Trump who shifted and aligned with our values.”
On the day after the primary, it was evident the Republican senatorial primary election was too close to call. Thousands of mail-in ballots were yet to be counted. That same day President Trump publicly advised Dr. Oz to just declare himself the winner. The former president warned that such action “makes it much harder for those to cheat with ballots that they ‘just happen to find.’”
Dr. Oz was in a bind. How would he respond to the former president who was also his political benefactor while at the same time remain respectful to the Pennsylvanian election process? He threaded the needle by issuing a video in which he thanked voters for his “presumptive” victory.
The closeness of the Republican senatorial primary triggered by law an automatic recount. (Any margin less than a half percentage point triggers a recount.) The recount was complicated by a Commonwealth Court decision which indicated that mail-in ballots not properly dated but otherwise eligible should be counted. Justice Samuel Alito, of the federal Supreme Court, issued a stay on implementation of the Commonwealth Court ruling. But the federal Supreme Court as a whole chose not to intervene and the stay was lifted. Before the recount was complete (the relatively small number of undated-but-otherwise-qualified mail-in votes did not break in McCormick’s favor). McCormick conceded the election.
I hope the Pennsylvania Supreme Court does us all a favor and rules, in a forthcoming decision, that words purposefully and deliberately placed in our state constitution mean what they mean and that no-excuse mail-in voting is, as the state constitution presently stands, unconstitutional in our commonwealth.
That is not because I think mail-in voting is necessarily wrong. Nor is it because I suspect mail-in voting in Pennsylvania has been, in even a small degree, fraudulently administered or otherwise manipulated. The evidence does not support such an accusation.
There are reasons to be against mail-in voting – as explained in the report of the 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker. But that is not the same as subjecting mail-in voting to the “firehose of falsehood” as put forth by Donald Trump and his abettors such as Steve Bannion, Rudy Guiliani, Sydney Powell, and our Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.
So much dishonest opprobrium has been attached to mail-in voting that we need to reset our system by going back to in-person voting and absentee voting (as differentiated from no-excuse mail-in voting.)
The irony is that Mehmet Oz will be the Republican senatorial candidate on the November ballot not because he just declared himself the winner – but because of the honest, conscientious, and detail-oriented work performed by election officials and election workers in each and every of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. If our democratic ship of state is to survive the perilous waters ahead, it is because the election officials and election workers have gone to, and will continue to go to and remain in, general quarters at election time to both preserve and protect our democratic system.