Pennsylvania's U.S. Republican Senate midterm primary heads to recount

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The deadlocked U.S. Senate Republican primary between wellness celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund executive David McCormick was headed for a recount in Pennsylvania, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said on Wednesday, with the outcome delayed into next month.

Oz, whose candidacy was propelled in the final weeks of the campaign by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, led McCormick by only 902 votes with all counties reporting, within the 0.5% margin that triggers an automatic recount.

McCormick has not waived his right to a recount, Chapman said, adding that she will issue the formal declaration on Thursday afternoon. Counties must complete the recount no later than June 7, she said.

The two men are vying for the Republican nomination to square off against Democrat John Fetterman in the Nov. 8 midterm election to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

The outcome poses a test for Trump's influence over the Republican Party as he mulls a possible third run for president in 2024. The former president has endorsed over 190 candidates as he tries to solidify his status as party kingmaker, though his picks have not always prevailed.

Oz and McCormick have both positioned themselves as champions of Trump's populist "America First" agenda. But they have each faced questions over the authenticity of their conservative convictions and their commitment to a state to which they only recently returned as residents.

Fetterman, a goateed, tattooed, liberal lieutenant governor, has cultivated an "everyman" appeal by sporting hoodies and shorts on the campaign trail. He won the Democratic nomination against moderate U.S. Representative Conor Lamb, hours after having had a pacemaker implanted to address irregular heart rhythms that caused a stroke. He has said doctors expect a full recovery.

The fate of the Pennsylvania seat could help determine which party controls the 100-seat U.S. Senate in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. The chamber is currently split 50-50, with Democrats in control because of Vice President Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote.

Republicans are also defending open Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina, as well as incumbent Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Democratic incumbents are vulnerable in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Makini Brice; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)