WASHINGTON (AP) — David McCormick had a clear explanation for why his fellow Republican, Dr. Mehmet Oz, lost a critical Pennsylvania Senate seat: Voters viewed the daytime television celebrity as an interloper from New Jersey with limited ties to the state he hoped to represent.
“People want to know that the person that they’re voting for ‘gets it,’” McCormick, who narrowly lost to Oz in a GOP primary, said in March when asked to offer a postmortem of the general election defeat. “And part of ‘getting it’ is understanding that you just didn’t come in yesterday.”
As Republicans aim to gain the one seat they need to retake the Senate in next year’s elections, McCormick is a top recruit. And before his anticipated campaign, he’s working to avoid Oz’s fate, frequently noting his upbringing in Pennsylvania, his ownership of a home in Pittsburgh and a family farm near Bloomsburg.
“I live in Pennsylvania,” McCormick said during a March appearance on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s podcast.
But the reality is more complex. While McCormick does own a home in Pittsburgh, a review of public records, real estate listings and footage from recent interviews indicates he still lives on Connecticut’s “Gold Coast,” one of the densest concentrations of wealth in America. The former hedge fund CEO rents a $16 million mansion in Westport that features a 1,500-bottle wine cellar, an elevator and a “private waterfront resort” overlooking Long Island Sound.
The trappings of a wealthy enclave, well outside Pennsylvania, offer a jarring contrast with the political identity McCormick has sought to cultivate, which emphasizes his upbringing buck hunting, his Army service and his desire to serve his home state.
Whether voters care will be tested anew should McCormick formally launch a campaign to unseat three-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in the 2024 election, which will help determine partisan control of the chamber. Recent Senate history suggests that even favorite sons can be stung when loose ties to home become a campaign issue.
Chris Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said McCormick has “more legitimate connections to Pennsylvania than Mehmet Oz.” But he questioned the decision to spend significant time out-of-state, particularly given the decisive role that residency played in the 2022 matchup between Oz and Democratic Sen. John Fetterman.
“He spent a big chunk of time working for Wall Street and living in Connecticut,” Borick said of McCormick. “There’s nothing wrong with that choice — unless you want to be a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.”
He added, “As someone who is aware that he is going to have to confront this, it’s questionable to not really devote yourself.”
A spokeswoman for McCormick, Elizabeth Gregory, declined to make him available for an interview and would not say how much of his time he spends at his Connecticut mansion, which also boasts a spa, pool and heated pavilion nestled in an area that real estate listings describe as a “summer playground of America’s wealthiest families.”
“Dave has called Pennsylvania home for 30 years and served our country outside of Pennsylvania for an additional 13,” she said. “It’s the place he mailed letters back to when he served in Iraq and the place where three of his daughters were born.”
She said, “While he maintains a residence in Connecticut as his daughters finish high school, Dave’s home is in Pittsburgh and for the last 10 years he has owned a working farm in his hometown of Bloomsburg, which has been in the family for decades.”
McCormick was raised in that Susquehanna River town, where his father was a local college president. Political ads emphasize a biography of high school sport, hunting and trimming Christmas trees on his family’s farm.
His career since leaving Pennsylvania has been considerably more gilded.
After graduating West Point, McCormick served as an officer in the Gulf War and later earned a doctorate from Princeton. During the heady days of the dot-com bubble, McCormick was CEO of the internet auctioneering house FreeMarkets — amassing wealth as he steered the Pittsburgh-based company to a nearly $500 million acquisition deal in 2004.
He served several years in President George W. Bush’s administration, including a stint as a top deputy to then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Afterward, he joined the upper executive ranks of the global hedge fund behemoth Bridgewater Associates, eventually climbing to CEO. In 2022, McCormick and his wife, Dina Powell McCormick, a former Goldman Sachs executive, held a net worth that ranged between $95.7 million and at least $196.7 million, and included homes in Dallas and the Colorado Rockies, according to an analysis of a candidate financial disclosure he filed with the Senate last year.
Once McCormick set his sights on the U.S. Senate, he began to make some well-timed adjustments.
Three months before launching his first Senate run in January 2022, McCormick sold his family’s $6.5 million home in Fairfield, Connecticut. That was followed by the $2.8 million purchase of a stately Tudor-style home in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill North neighborhood, records show.
Around the same time, the Connecticut mansion, which he now lists as his home address in some public documents, was taken off the rental market.
McCormick has also not received a homestead tax exemption on his Pittsburgh home, a tax break reserved for an individual’s primary place of residence. He voted in a Pennsylvania election for the first time in 16 years during the 2022 Republican primary, when he was on the ballot, voting records show.
When McCormick delivered his concession speech after losing to Oz by just over 900 votes, he was unequivocal about where he lived.
“We’re not going anywhere. This is my home. This is our home,” McCormick said. “This is where my dreams were launched, and this is where we plan to have a future.”
Meanwhile, his children continued to attend a $53,000-a-year Connecticut private school where one is still enrolled, according to the school’s website.
In January, as McCormick started to eye another run, he shed his $13.4 million condo on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A document signed by McCormick that was filed in connection with the sale was notarized in Westport, Connecticut, and lists the nearby beachfront home as his address.
This spring, McCormick participated in a series of virtual interviews from the kitchen of his Westport home. Distinguishing features in the background match pictures that were posted publicly before the McCormicks moved in.
A $5,000 campaign contribution made in late March also lists the beachside house as McCormick’s home.
McCormick’s wealth, which he can channel into his political aspirations, makes him an attractive potential candidate to the Republican Washington establishment, which is cheering him to run again.
But it also presents an opportunity for Democrats, who are likely to seize on his ties to Wall Street in what is expected to again be one of the most competitive Senate matchups in the country.
“This is all dress up,” said J.B. Poersch, the head of Senate Democrats TV spending campaign arm. “Covering up for the years that he spent as a hedge fund-monger appears to be just as important as pretending that he fits in.”
Associated Press writer Marc Levy contributed from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.