GOP candidates in Pennsylvania Senate race could include Dr. Oz and former Bush official

Rich Constable, whose background includes administration stints in both Bush administrations, as well as high-paying consulting gig for drug manufacturer, among others

GOP candidates in Pennsylvania Senate race could include Dr. Oz and former Bush official

A Republican businessman, a doctor and a former Bush administration official with Washington ties are taking part in a crowded, springtime primary race to succeed the late Senator John Heinz in Pennsylvania.

The race, which could cost $50m, reflects the extent to which social and political issues are increasingly being fought over on the cable news airwaves and in social media, particularly by the presumptive presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

And, in an election when most Republicans have lined up behind the party’s presumptive nominee, it showcases a new and populist tinge to the party’s increasingly mainline conservatives.

The race in Pennsylvania is among the most closely watched in the country. The winner will face Democrat Katie McGinty, the former head of the environment agency.

The Pennsylvania primary is in April 2019.

Among the candidates who have entered the race to succeed Heinz are:

Constable is a Pittsburgh-area businessman who has long been involved in politics, having run for Congress in 2010 and unsuccessfully challenged Trump in last year’s Republican primary. Constable, 71, had been managing the Heinz campaign until June when he announced he was quitting. He has been affiliated with the Centre County Republican party for four decades.

Colbert, a physician, was the primary physician of the late Republican Senator Don Nickles, the longest-serving Republican congressman in Oklahoma history.

Scranton surgeon and former CIA spy Shahram Hadian is another leading candidate in the race. A graduate of Cornell University, Hadian worked for several intelligence agencies in both the cold war and the second Iraq war. After leaving the CIA in 2007, he became a key confidant and advisor to the late slain CIA agent Jim Chapman.

Heinz, the state’s longest-serving US senator, died on 21 February of complications from pneumonia.

Seven other candidates have announced so far to vie for the Republican nomination.

Among them are:

Constable is in his third term as chairman of the Centre County Republican party. He helped engineer its takeover of the old county party, helping win the backing of conservative activists and campaigning for them to lead the party. As chairman, he’s been involved in the GOP primary campaigns of former presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.

Colbert is a physician specializing in diabetes, a chronic disease, in addition to being a physician in private practice. He has remained active with Physicians for a National Health Program, which seeks universal health care. The group has been involved in resisting medical malpractice lawsuits.

Hadian is a native of Tehran and began working in the CIA after Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Iran in 1980. He served at the Washington-based CIA’s Af-Pak regional group, which has an office in Lohariya, Pakistan. He was stationed there for 10 years, beginning in 1990, and worked on the development of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation. He worked for several years in Kabul before moving to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995. After briefly serving there as a special operations advisor, he joined the special forces and soon went to Afghanistan to take charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency mission. He subsequently became the deputy director of operations for the Special Forces. He moved on to Pakistan in 1999.

Don Turner is an English major from Clarion University and founder of the Keystone Freedom Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote self-government throughout Pennsylvania.

Marie Dorison, a retired teacher, has received support from the labor union Pennsylvania State Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

Robert Wagner, a chemical engineer, has touted his experience in the petroleum industry, and has had a long association with the Republican establishment.

Francis Rooney is the only member of Congress from Pennsylvania, having been first elected in 1998. Rooney, 37, is the son of the late Senator Alfonse D’Amato and started his career at ExxonMobil after graduating from the Naval Academy. He is an airline pilot for Textron, and was a bankruptcy lawyer.

Tim Edson, a former legislator from Susquehanna County, has been one of the loudest critics of the oil and gas industry in the state, criticizing its impact on air quality and the local economy.

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