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Oz faces residency questions as he begins U.S. Senate campaign. The law appears to be on his side

US Open Tennis Dr. Mehmet Oz
Elise Amendola
Dr. Oz, right, watches play between Emma Raducanu, of Britain, and Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, during the women's singles final of the US Open tennis championships, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in New York.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is facing questions about whether he can legally run for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

The television personality said Tuesday he’s running for the Republican nomination. But Oz has lived for several decades in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. His long-running TV program, The Dr. Oz Show, is filmed in Manhattan.

Critics claim that should keep Oz from being able to enter Pa.’s Senate race. But the Philadelphia Inquirer reports Oz registered to vote last December in Montgomery County using the address of a house his in-laws own. In his campaign announcement, Oz said he’s living at that house with his wife now.

Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University, said that’s likely enough to satisfy the law.

“I mean, normally, a person’s word is good enough unless there’s some formal inconsistency, like [he’s] still voting in New Jersey. But if there’s no formal inconsistency, I become a resident of the state the first moment I’m there,” Ledewitz said.

Ledewitz notes the U.S. Constitution also technically allows the move. Article I, Section III says as long as a candidate is a resident of the state they’re running in “when elected,” they can compete for a Senate seat.

“Dr. Oz says he’s not in Kansas anymore, and he can say that,” he added.

But to make it in the Republican primary, Muhlenberg College political science Professor Chris Borick says, Oz will likely have to overcome any perception that he’s an outsider. Borick added he may be criticized about his residency on the campaign trail.

“I don’t think that [legal] hurdle is particularly hard to get over, but the acceptance hurdle…among the primary electorate in the Republican party seems much more significant,” he said.

“There’s a gigantic difference between proving legal residence to be able to run and proving to voters that you really are part of that entity, in this case the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and that you’re not just looking for an opportunity,” Borick said.

Eight candidates have formally declared they’re running for the Republican nomination. In all, two dozen GOP Senate campaign committees are active.

Former President Donald Trump has not endorsed anyone since his preferred candidate, Sean Parnell, dropped out late last month.

Sam Dunklau reports on Harrisburg for WESA and Pennsylvania's other public radio stations. He previously covered Illinois state government for NPR member station WUIS in Springfield, IL.
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