This November, one of the most closely watched Senate races is Pennsylvania’s matchup between Democratic nominee John Fetterman and his Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz. Given how close the polls are, Black voter turnout will be vital in deciding to whom the seat will go, the Associated Press reports.
Given the current 50/50 makeup of the Senate, each party has a significant interest in how results shake out. If the Democrats win, they hope to widen their advantage to pass abortion and (hopefully) voting rights protections. Republicans will seek to do the complete opposite, like installing a national abortion ban. However, given how crucial the next few weeks will be, Black voters may be the deciding vote.
Nine in 10 Black voters nationally voted for Joe Biden in 2020, according to AP. In Pennsylvania, the support was similar, at 94%. Black voters have the most significant amount of voting power in Philadelphia. Still, some, like the executive producer and host of Reality Check Charles Ellison, say that Democrats lack a message to bring to the Black community.
“There’s just not this realization that’s occurring that Pennsylvania is a national battleground and Philadelphia is the cornerstone in that,” Ellison said. “And the only way you’re going to get Philadelphia and the only way you’re going to get Pennsylvania is through maximum Black voter turnout.”
For Fetterman, Democrat Josh Shapiro’s campaign said it is investing $3 million in Black voter outreach. This includes going to Black churches and businesses, constructing a platform to expand pathways to jobs, and creating wealth in Black communities. In Oz’s case, he’s taken the Republican playbook of saying that Democrats have failed to protect Black communities from crime and gun violence.
In a recent town hall at a recreation center in northeast Philadelphia, a Black supporter Rev. Mark Tyler said Fetterman supports things that Black voters care about, “such as bringing jobs to ‘America’s poorest big city,’ ending environmental racism, and supporting stronger funding for city schools.”
Oz spoke about his work to raise money for scholarships for Black medical students. However, when asked by a spectator about what he would do for the Black community, Oz replied that he’d “bring more tax dollars for private schools and to open liquefied natural gas export stations in the city to bring wealth into the community.”
25-year-old registered Democrat Love Williams said he wasn’t sold on Oz or his ideas.