Donald Trump ally Sean Parnell is throwing his weight behind former hedge fund manager and Gulf War veteran David McCormick in Pennsylvania's hotly contested Republican Senate primary.
McCormick, a former executive at Bridgewater Associates, formally launched his campaign on Thursday, joining a field of nine other candidates that includes celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
"He's a fighter. He’s a leader," Parnell said Thursday of McCormick. "I'm proud to endorse him for Senate in Pennsylvania."
The endorsement is a major boost for McCormick and could signal that others in Trump’s orbit plan to back the candidate. Trump last year endorsed Parnell for the seat, but Parnell in November dropped out of contention amid an ongoing custody dispute with his ex-wife.
McCormick and Oz have scrambled to win support from other Trump allies in hopes of landing the former president's coveted endorsement. Trump White House officials Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller reportedly advised McCormick's exploratory committee, and the candidate has received outside advice from Trump advisers Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow. Oz has the backing of former secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross and casino magnate Steve Wynn. Wynn, a close friend of Trump, and Ross are holding a fundraiser for Oz on Jan. 21 in Palm Beach.
Republican leaders in the Keystone State last year began pushing McCormick to enter the race as an alternative to Parnell, whose custody dispute was seen as a political liability. Both McCormick and Oz may face struggles in their appeal to conservative voters. McCormick has publicly criticized Trump, saying last year that the former president bore some responsibility for the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Oz, who owes his celebrity status to Oprah Winfrey, has expressed support for abortion rights and "red-flag" gun laws.