HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Republican Party candidates for Pennsylvania’s United States Senate seat shared the debate stage for an hour Monday night that focused on several pressing topics.

The debate was held at the abc27 studio in Harrisburg. abc27 News anchor and Capitol Bureau Reporter Dennis Owens and WPXI Anchor Lisa Sylvester were co-moderators.

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Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, Dave McCormick, Mehmet Oz, and Carla Sands answered questions and addressed issues ranging from the electability of candidates to immigration matters. There were also tense moments when candidates threw jabs at each other.

Here are some key takeaways from the debate.

It’s important to voters how long a candidate has lived in Pa. 

According to the WHTM/EmersonPolling/TheHill Poll, 40.7% of voters said the length of time a candidate has lived in Pennsylvania is very important

McCormick, who grew up in Pennsylvania, has not lived in the state for 15 years. The initial focus questioned why he returned to Pennsylvania to run for U.S. Senate. 

An important point he wanted to make was spending 10 years building a company in Pittsburgh, which created 600 jobs, and his family farm of 45 years that he also owns.

“So my Pennsylvania roots are deep,” McCormick explained. “I’m very connected to my friends where I grew up and I’m very connected to the people of Pennsylvania and it would be a great honor and privilege to be able to represent them in the senate.”

Outside of medical school and grad school Oz has not lived in the Commonwealth and was asked to respond to concerns that he does not know what is best for Pennsylvania.  

Oz pointed out that the Pennsylvanians he has spoken to care more about his stances than where he is from. 

Barnette, who has lived in the Commonwealth since she was young, said Pennsylvanians want one of their own. She then honed in on the concerns of having their voices heard.

“I can promise the people of Pennsylvania that when these carpetbaggers lose, you will never see them again,” Barnette said “And if they should win, you will never see them again.”

At the back of the pack of the five candidates, Bartos spoke of being a lifelong Pennsylvanian. The key difference he believes for those who are undecided is that they are trying to decide who they can trust. Bartos stated that he is the only candidate running with a proven track record of getting things done for the working families and helping them through the pandemic. 

Sands, who has spent a lot of time living outside of the Commonwealth noted that she is an eighth-generation Pennsylvanian which is longer than anyone else in the race. Sands spent time in Denmark serving as a U.S. ambassador working to counter Russia and China with the Department of Defence and Nato on behalf of all Americans. 

Candidates took aim at each other

Candidates McCormick and Oz took aim at each other several times throughout the debate. When questioned about campaign ads by McCormick attacking his credibility as a Republican, Oz said the ads were designed to fool the electorate. McCormick fired back at Oz for the attack ads the doctor aired against him saying his claims about making billions of dollars for China as a hedge fund manager were disingenuous. He also put the claim back on Oz saying he has accepted money from the East Asia country.

Throughout the debate, McCormick claimed that Oz has “flipped flopped” on several major issues including his stance on abortion and fracking in Pennsylvania.

“He’s never in his entire media career advanced a conservative agenda. They are all liberal points and liberal agendas that he put forward and now he’s flip-flopping. “The problem, Doctor, is there’s no miracle cure for flip-flopping and Pennsylvanians are seeing right through your phoniness. That’s what you’re dealing with and that’s why you’re not taking off in the polls,” McCormick said at Oz.

In response to McCormick’s statements, Oz referred to him as “Dishonest Dave” and claimed former President Donald Trump did not endorse McCormick because he saw through all of the allegations about Oz that were presented to him. McCormick also criticized Oz for continually speaking about his endorsement from Trump, saying he can’t run on his own positions and track records.

While McCormick and Oz exchanged jabs, the two female candidates on the debate stage engaged in a quarrel of their own.

When asked about the true meaning of the phrase “America First,” Sands said she is the only candidate to have been appointed by former President Trump to work in his administration as an ambassador to Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. She then turned her attention to Barnette and said she does not completely embolden the “America First” philosophy. Sands also claimed that Barnette had lost her last election by 20 points in a “red wave year” and rebuked her claim that it was stolen from her.

“They did not steal that election by 20 points, she lost her last election to a weak Democrat. John Fetterman is not a weak Democrat. He’s strong. I will beat John Fetterman in the fall.”

Barnette responded to Sands by asking her to clarify her statements and asked for her option in the 2020 election.

“Are you saying that the 2020 election was above par? That there was no fraud? There was no issues with that? Are you telling me that it was perfect?” Barnette asked. “Apparently, that’s what she’s saying. So for all of us in the Republican party, now we have a candidate on stage who is saying that there was absolutely nothing to see in that 2020 election.”

Barnette then questioned the extent of Sands’s involvement with the Trump Administration and claimed he had rejected her twice for an endorsement.

Agreement on blocking the removal of Title 42

Shortly before the five GOP candidates arrived for the debate, Judge Robert Summerhays, an appointee of former President Trump, blocked the removal of Title 42 which the Biden administration planned to end on May 23. It will now stay in place at least until a new hearing can happen.

When asked if they agree with the judge or if they think we’re handling a migration issue by using a public health order, the candidates all agreed that the judge is right and it should stay in place. Bartos even mentioned that some Democrats don’t want it lifted either.

“The judge is correct. Democrats running for re-election are running away from the Biden Administration on that. It tells you how bad the administration is on Title 42 and the border. A disaster,” Bartos answered.

Biden was not off the table for other candidates with the topic of Title 42 as Barnette was quick to respond that it’s in line with a lot of other “illogical things the Biden Administration and Democrats have forced upon the American people.”

Dr. Oz, Sands, and McCormick all agreed that Title 42 should remain in place for the safety of the American people.

Should transgender athletes be allowed to compete as their preferred gender?

After becoming the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title, Lia Thompson, sparked debate across the country. Should transgendered athletes be allowed to compete as their preferred gender and identity?

On another topic that all five candidates agreed with, their responses all stuck to the point that biological males should not be allowed to compete against women. Bartos said that this is not just a legislature issue It’s also an issue for schools and the NCAA, comparing them to the “same failures we’ve seen from ‘woke CEOs'” and supports legislation to ban it.

While Dr. Oz agreed that biological males should never compete against women, McCormick was quick to point out an episode of The Dr. Oz Show from 2015.

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“I hate to keep bringing this up,” McCormick stated, “but you did an entire show in 2015 about seven, eight, nine-year-old children and you were supporting those conversations about transgender transitions surgical things treatments that would be irreversible.”

Oz, with very little time left in the debate, retorted by explaining that he does television shows about views that need to be expressed on network television.