FILE - This Dec. 4, 2019 file photo shows Dr. Mehmet Oz at the 14th annual L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Gala in New York.  Oz, joins the Republican field of possible candidates aiming to capture Pennsylvania's open US Senate seat in next year's election. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File) Mehmet Oz
FILE - This Dec. 4, 2019 file photo shows Dr. Mehmet Oz at the 14th annual L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Gala in New York. Oz, joins the Republican field of possible candidates aiming to capture Pennsylvania's open US Senate seat in next year's election. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Democratic Senate candidate Dr. Val Arkoosh blasted the prospect of Dr. Oz’s campaign: “Dr. Oz is the last thing we need when our Commonwealth faces real challenges.”

HARRISBURG  — Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon best known as the host of TV’s Dr. Oz Show after rocketing to fame on Oprah Winfrey’s show, announced Tuesday that he is running for Pennsylvania’s open US Senate seat as a Republican.

Oz, 61, will bring his unrivaled name recognition and wealth to a wide-open race that is expected to be among the nation’s most competitive and could determine control of the Senate in next year’s election.

Oz — a longtime New Jersey resident — would join a field of Republican candidates trying to cater to Trump voters, now that the candidate endorsed by Trump, Sean Parnell, has dropped out of the race. Parnell, a decorated former Army Ranger who led a platoon in Afghanistan, suspended his campaign last week after he lost a court fight over custody of his three children in which the judge said he believed allegations of abuse by Parnell’s estranged wife.

In a video message on social media, Oz casts himself as a sort of champion for people’s health, who “took on the medical establishment to argue against costly drugs and skyrocketing medical bills” and is prepared to fight a government that he said has mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oz also makes a pitch to Trump loyalists — and possibly Trump, too — by invoking Trump’s slogan for his governing philosophy, “America first.”

“As a heart surgeon, I know how precious life is,” Oz says. “Pennsylvania needs a conservative who will put America first, one who can reignite our divine spark, bravely fight for freedom and tell it like it is.”

Pennsylvania’s Senate seat is opening up with the retirement in 2023 of two-term Republican US Sen. Pat Toomey, and both Republicans and Democrats have a big field of candidates. 

Oz’s potential Republican opponents include conservative commentator Kathy Barnette; real estate investor Jeff Bartos, the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor; and Carla Sands, the wealthy former ambassador to Denmark under Trump.

The Democratic field is headlined by John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, and Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, the chairperson of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Arkoosh, a physician who helped fight for the passage of the Affordable Care Act as president of the National Physicians Alliance, issued a statement Tuesday blasting Oz’s potential Senate run, likening his political aspirations to the Trump presidency.

“We’ve seen what happens when TV personalities gain power in Washington and Dr. Oz is the last thing we need when our Commonwealth faces real challenges — challenges like getting past COVID-19, helping folks get back to work, and tackling the climate crisis,” Arkoosh said. “I’m the doctor in this race with a proven track record, from fighting for my patients in the operating room to fighting to lead our Commonwealth’s third-largest county through COVID-19. That’s the kind of leadership needed now more than ever, not a TV personality who has peddled fake diet pills for-profit and pushed unproven COVID-19 treatments.” 

The Washington Free Beacon broke the news of Oz’s plans to run earlier this month.

Oz in recent days has told associates and Republicans in Pennsylvania of his plans and, according to a TV show spokesperson, has lived and voted in Pennsylvania since last year.

As one of the nation’s biggest presidential electoral prizes, Pennsylvania put Democrat Joe Biden over the top in last year’s election. His 1 percentage point victory put the swing state back in Democratic hands after Trump won it even more narrowly in 2016.

Oz is a heart surgeon, author of New York Times bestsellers, Emmy-winning TV show host, radio talk show host, founder of a national non-profit to educate teens about healthy habits, and self-styled ambassador for wellness.

He was appointed by Trump to the presidential Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, guest-hosted the “Jeopardy!” game show, and helped save a dying man at Newark Liberty International Airport last winter.

In his video message, he touts his entrepreneurship, saying he “invented a heart valve that saves thousands of lives.”

If support from Trump is important in the Republican primary, then Oz may have a leg up. As Oz interviewed Trump on his show in 2016, Trump told him, “you know my wife’s a big fan of your show.”

Still, Oz may have to explain why he isn’t running for office in New Jersey, where he has lived for the past two decades before he began voting in Pennsylvania’s elections this year by absentee ballot, registered to his in-laws’ address in suburban Philadelphia. His Twitter profile lists Huntington Valley, Montgomery County, as his home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.