By Eric Bradner, CNN
Dave McCormick announced at a campaign event Friday evening that he had conceded Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary to Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Oz is now set to face John Fetterman, the Democratic lieutenant governor who is recovering from a mid-May stroke, in the November election to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. It is expected to be one of the nation’s most expensive and closely watched contests in the battle for control of a Senate that is now split evenly between the parties.
McCormick’s Friday decision comes more than two weeks after their May 17 primary ended with Oz ahead by a margin of fewer than 1,000 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast in the Republican primary. The narrow margin triggered Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law, which takes effect when the margin between the top two finishers is 0.5 percentage point or less.
“We came so close,” McCormick told supporters, pointing to the “razor thin” margin.
“It’s now clear to me with the recount largely complete, that we have a nominee. And today I called Mehmet Oz to congratulate him on his victory. And I told him, what I always said to you, that I will do my part to try to unite Republicans and Pennsylvanians behind his candidacy,” McCormick said.
The recount began one week ago, and counties faced a Wednesday deadline to report their results. Lawyers for Oz and McCormick had fought county by county over provisional ballots.
McCormick’s campaign had also fought in court to have mail-in ballots without a handwritten date on the return envelope counted; Pennsylvania officials had said there were about 850 such ballots. A Pennsylvania judge sided with McCormick on Thursday, ordering the counties to begin counting those ballots, though the Republican National Committee had appealed that ruling Friday. The RNC, the state GOP and Oz’s campaign had argued that those ballots should not be counted.
Oz said in a statement following the concession that he had received a “gracious” call form McCormick and that he was “tremendously grateful for his pledge of support in the fall election.”
“We share the goal of a brighter future for Pennsylvania and America,” Oz continued. “Now that our primary is over, we will make sure that this U.S. Senate seat does not fall into the hands of the radical left, led by John Fetterman. I look forward to campaigning in every corner of the Commonwealth for the next five months to earn the support of every Pennsylvanian.”
Trump had encouraged Oz to follow his own conspiratorial tactics and declare victory. Oz referred to himself as the “presumptive” Republican nominee as the recount unfolded.
As ballots were tallied, the margin did not shift substantially in McCormick’s favor. A source close to McCormick’s campaign said it became clear that the math just wasn’t there for McCormick’s campaign and that McCormick wouldn’t gain the votes needed to overtake Oz.
Oz was propelled in the final weeks of the wide-open primary by the endorsement from Trump, who has been the biggest player in recent Senate primaries to replace retiring Republicans. The former President’s support lifted venture capitalist J.D. Vance to victory in Ohio and boosted US Rep. Ted Budd, who won easily in North Carolina.
The Pennsylvania race, much like in Ohio, exposed fractures within the GOP, with Trump endorsing a candidate who was seen as more moderate than other contenders.
Kathy Barnette, the conservative commentator whose full-throated embrace of everything Trump stood for drew the former President’s supporters who were not enamored with Oz, finished third with about 25% of the vote. Barnette benefited from spending by the conservative Club for Growth, which was at odds with Trump for a second time in weeks after it spent millions bolstering former state treasurer Josh Mandel, the second-place finisher in the Ohio Senate primary.
Oz overcame attacks over his reversals on abortion rights, which he once said he supported and now says he opposes, and his Turkish citizenship and service in the Turkish military.
McCormick, meanwhile, was the beneficiary of more than $16 million in advertising spending from a super PAC called Honor Pennsylvania, funded by Wall Street figures. His campaign and Oz’s campaign also each spent more than $12 million on TV ads.
Pennsylvania now heads toward a November election that could be key to determining which party controls the Senate. The commonwealth is also hosting a crucial governor’s race that pits Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has embraced Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election, against Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has defended the state’s election procedures — with the winner gaining the power to appoint the secretary of state who will take control of Pennsylvania’s election machinery in time for the 2024 presidential contest.
This story has been updated with additional details Friday.
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CNN’s Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.