CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) — Republican Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz is stepping up his criticism of far-right candidates in Pennsylvania who’re gaining traction forward of Tuesday’s main election.

After spending a lot of the marketing campaign steering away from fellow Republican Senate contender Kathy Barnette, Oz on Saturday stated she was out of step with the GOP and could be unable to win the overall election in November. In an interview, he took challenge with a 2015 tweet from Barnette during which she wrote that “Pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam.”

Oz, who could be the nation’s first Muslim senator, described the feedback as “disqualifying.”

“It’s reprehensible that she would tweet out something that is defamatory to an entire religion,” Oz told The Associated Press. “This state was based on religious freedom. I’m proud as a Pennsylvanian to uphold those founding beliefs that every faith has its merits.”

The Barnette marketing campaign didn’t reply to a request for remark. Earlier within the week, Barnette instructed NBC Information that she didn’t make the assertion, which was nonetheless stay on her Twitter feed on Saturday.

For months, the race for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat has been an costly struggle between former hedge fund CEO David McCormick and Oz, who’ve spent thousands and thousands of {dollars} attacking one another on tv. Every has additionally confronted questions on their ties to Pennsylvania. McCormick grew up within the state, whereas Oz went to medical faculty there and was married in Philadelphia.

However within the remaining days of the Republican main, a 3rd candidate — Barnette, a conservative commentator who has courted hard-line pro-Trump teams — has emerged. Trump himself has warned that Barnette’s background hasn’t been correctly vetted.

With the election simply days away, polls present a decent three-way race with a large variety of undecided voters who might sway the outcomes subsequent week.

Oz has gained Trump’s endorsement within the Senate contest, though some Trump supporters proceed to query his conservative credentials.

When requested to make clear his views on abortion within the Saturday interview, Oz distanced himself from Trump’s newly minted pick for Pennsylvania governor, Doug Mastriano, a far-right conservative who has referred to as abortion “the No. 1 issue.” In a latest televised debate, Mastriano stated he helps banning abortion from conception, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the lifetime of the mom.

Oz described himself as “pro-life,” however stated he would favor an abortion ban in Pennsylvania that would come with exceptions for rape, incest and the lifetime of the mom.

“There are times when we disagree with other pro-life advocates,” Oz instructed the AP. “In my case, those disagreements often come about because, as a doctor, I’ve dealt with issues that threaten the life of the mother.”

Oz saved his most pointed criticism for Barnette, nonetheless, echoing Trump’s considerations that her background hasn’t been correctly scrutinized. He lashed out at her earlier feedback on Islam, noting that she additionally has a historical past of anti-gay remarks.

“We know so little,” Oz stated. “Every time she answers a question, she raises more questions. But I think it’s disqualifying to make Islamophobic and homophobic comments, not just for the general election, but the Republican primary as well.”


Related Press author Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.

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