Fetterman releases new ad defending his record on crime under deluge of GOP attacks

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Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has released a new ad in an attempt to defend his record on criminal justice after a deluge of ads from his opponent in the Senate race, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Fetterman, a Democrat, has been consistently leading in polls but has seen the gap narrow amid accusations from Republicans that he is too soft on crime and favors sentence reductions for violent criminals. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s PAC has spent millions on ads spotlighting Fetterman’s work on the state’s Board of Pardons, which he chairs as lieutenant governor.

In Fetterman's ad, released Tuesday morning, Sean Kilkenny, the Montgomery County sheriff, defended the candidate's record, saying, “I’m sick of Oz talking about John Fetterman and crime. Here’s the truth. John gave a second chance to those who deserved it. Nonviolent offenders, marijuana users. He voted with law enforcement experts nearly 90% of the time. He reunited families and protected our freedom.”

A still from John Fetterman's new campaign ad.
A still from John Fetterman's new campaign ad. (Via YouTube)

Located in the Philadelphia metro area, Montgomery is the third most populous county in the state. In late August, Fetterman released an ad rebutting the soft-on-crime attacks, discussing his tenure as mayor of Braddock, a Pittsburgh suburb, and how he worked with the police. He has also promoted marijuana legalization, touring every county in the state to discuss the issue.

The crime-focused attacks on Fetterman are similar to the ones being used on Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the Democratic candidate for Senate who’s attempting to unseat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

Oz attacked Fetterman’s campaign for employing two brothers, Lee and Dennis Horton, who were freed in 2021 after nearly 30 years in prison for a murder in which they maintain they were not involved. During the primary campaign, Fetterman touted his work on the Board of Pardons.

Lt. Gov. Fetterman speaks during a rally in Philadelphia on Sept. 24.
Fetterman at a rally in Philadelphia on Sept. 24. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)

“You have an opportunity to really make a big impact on second chances,” he said at an April event. “That, to me, means everything. You have an opportunity to decide what direction we take in our society. Should you pay for the rest of your life for a mistake that you made if you were addicted, or you were young, or you were in poverty?”

Fetterman and Oz are vying for the position being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The race has been seen for months as Democrats’ best chance at flipping a GOP seat, a critical need in a chamber split 50-50 and amid tough reelection efforts for Democratic incumbents in states like Nevada and Georgia. The most recent polling has shown Fetterman consistently leading, but that margin has varied between as few as 2 and as many as 10 points this month.

Oz and his campaign have also attempted to draw attention to the health of Fetterman, who suffered a stroke days before the May primary. Fetterman has returned to the trail and is conducting interviews but will occasionally miss words when talking, missteps that have been pounced on in social media videos. He and his campaign have repeatedly said the candidate feels fine but at times has auditory issues.

Oz addresses attendees at former President Donald Trump's rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 3.
Mehmet Oz addresses attendees at former President Donald Trump's rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 3. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Fetterman’s campaign has consistently painted Oz as out of touch, pointing to his longtime New Jersey residency and using the nickname “Doc Hollywood” for the former talk show host. Recently the campaign has been pressuring Oz on reproductive rights, trying to pin down his position on a 15-week abortion ban proposed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina earlier this month.

The two are currently scheduled for one debate, on Oct. 25 in the state capital, Harrisburg.