Toomey, McGinty in heated Se­nate race

The out­come will help de­ter­mine which party con­trols the Se­nate

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Kauff­man and Lu­cas Rodgers rkauff­man@21st-cen­tu­ry­, lrodgers@21stcen­tu­ry­ @Kauf­fee_DT, @Lu­casMRodgers on Twit­ter

The races be­tween two po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates are of­ten billed in a way sim­i­lar to a box­ing match. An ex­change of fire­balls, pre­lim­i­nary bouts, big money to ad­ver­tis­ing, the hype that pre­cedes the main event — in this in­stance, Elec­tion Day on Nov. 8 — all plays into a nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tion to­ward con­flict and res­o­lu­tion.

On the na­tional stage, the two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are in a race that could be re­ferred to as the su­per heavy­weight matchup. Hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars are spent to find the great­est vic­tor, who upon the fi­nal de­ci­sion will tri­umphantly hold the cham­pi­onship belt, or in this case, a seat in the Oval Of­fice.

Of­ten the lower weight class matchups are not touted as top-tier en­ter­tain­ment, rather typ­i­cally re­garded as the warm-up to the main event. But 2016 is no nor­mal year, and the U.S. Se­nate con­test in Penn­syl­va­nia is no nor­mal race. It has

na­tional im­pli­ca­tions, so all eyes are on Penn­syl­va­nia as in­cum­bent Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., of Up­per Mill­ford, Le­high County, faces Demo­cratic chal­lenger Katie McGinty of Wayne, Ch­ester County, the for­mer chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf.

Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties in both the U.S. Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives achieved in 2014 have given the GOP a firm foothold in the 114th Congress to com­bat Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in the fi­nal two years of his pres­i­dency. Democrats in­tend to re­gain seats to re­turn ei­ther a firm ma­jor­ity or veto power to their side. Penn­syl­va­nia is viewed as a cru­cial race where the Democrats could gain ground.

No more ev­i­dent of the im­por­tance of this race is the amount of money in­volved in the cam­paigns of Toomey and McGinty. The com­pe­ti­tion for Penn­syl­va­nia’s con­tested Se­nate seat is the most ex­pen­sive Se­nate race in the na­tion by far. To­gether and with the sup­port of Su­per PACs (po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees) there’s has been more than $89 mil­lion spent be­tween the two cam­paigns. Each can­di­date has raised a lit­tle over $5 mil­lion since June.

While much of the cov­er­age of the cam­paigns has re­volved around the po­lit­i­cal at­tacks from both sides, this ar­ti­cle is meant to fo­cus on the is­sues. Dig­i­tal First Me­dia sent iden­ti­cal ques­tions to Toomey and McGinty on the top­ics of gun reg­u­la­tion, women’s rights, for­eign pol­icy, the econ­omy and im­mi­gra­tion. All the quotes in­cluded in this ar­ti­cle were taken from the emailed re­sponses from each can­di­date.

And with that, let’s get ready to rum­ble.

Gun pol­icy

Toomey and McGinty have each gar­nered a fair num­ber of en­dorse­ments on each side re­gard­ing gun-con­trol leg­is­la­tion. In 2013 Toomey co-au­thored a bill, and was one of just four Repub­li­can sen­a­tors to vote for this bill that would ex­pand back­ground checks fol­low­ing the mass shoot­ing in Sandy Hook, Con­necti­cut. That bill fell later failed to pass the Se­nate in 2015, but Toomey has re­mained stead­fast in his com­mit­ment to keep­ing guns out of the hands of crim­i­nals.

“I don’t sup­port ban­ning en­tire classes of widely-owned firearms,” Toomey said. “But I have taken a lead­er­ship role in work­ing to im­prove our back­ground check sys­tem to keep guns away from con­victed crim­i­nals, the dan­ger­ously men­tally ill, and sus­pected ter­ror­ists.”

McGinty, too, has not called for a com­plete ban, cit­ing her fam­ily of “hun­ters and sports­men” — her fa­ther was a Philadel­phia cop — and has called for both pro­tect­ing the rights of gun own­ers while “clos­ing the loop­hole that en­ables sus­pected ter­ror­ists to buy firearms, and ex­pand­ing back­ground checks on gun pur­chases.”

McGinty has re­ceived an en­dorse­ment from CeaseFirePA, while Toomey touts the en­dorse­ments of gun safety ad­vo­cates, for­mer U.S. Rep. Gabby Gif­fords, DAriz., and for­mer New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

McGinty claims that Toomey has “run away from leg­is­la­tion to ex­pand back­ground checks, since it failed to pass the Se­nate three years ago,” his record on gun safety is “pa­per thin” and he is “no moder­ate” when it comes to pre­vent­ing gun vi­o­lence, but Toomey has pledged that he will con­tinue work­ing to­ward pass­ing a back­ground check bill.

“The back­ground checks pro­posal that I put forth with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is still the clos­est Congress has come to mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant progress on this is­sue,” Toomey said.

Women’s rights

Paid ma­ter­nity and med­i­cal leave re­main a chiefly im­por­tant is­sue to many Amer­i­cans be­cause it af­fects both moth­ers and fa­thers, men and women. With­out man­dated leave pro­tected by state or fed­eral law, it’s up to the ju­ris­dic­tion of com­pa­nies to choose whether or not their em­ploy­ees are en­ti­tled to paid leave after giv­ing birth to or adopt­ing a child.

“This sta­tus quo leaves mil­lions of men and women to face an im­pos­si­ble choice be­tween their job or their fam­ily when a new baby comes or some­one falls ill,” McGinty said. “Let’s be clear, paid sick leave isn’t a hand out.”

McGinty and Toomey both of­fered an in­cen­tive-type plan that would al­low em­ploy­ees to earn time off after child­birth.

“It is a ben­e­fit that is earned by em­ploy­ees and can be struc­tured such that there is lit­tle (or) no cost to em­ploy­ers,” McGinty said.

“I have pro­posed al­low­ing pri­vate-sec­tor em­ploy­ees the abil­ity to ac­crue up to 160 hours of paid leave each year in re­turn for over­time hours worked,” Toomey said. “Out­dated fed­eral law cur­rently pre­vents giv­ing work­ers this flex­i­bil­ity.”

On the is­sue of abor­tion, the can­di­dates’ views dif­fer greatly. Toomey has taken a pro-life stance with caveats — he sup­ports the choice of abor­tion based on in­ci­dents of rape, in­cest or in­her­ent dan­ger to the health of the mother — while main­tain­ing a stance of “adop­tion over abor­tion.”

How­ever, Toomey firmly be­lieves that tax dol­lars should not be spent pay­ing for abor­tions. Toomey was one of 47 sen­a­tors who voted in fa­vor of a bill that if passed (it didn’t) would have de­funded Planned Par­ent­hood, which re­ceives ap­prox­i­mately $450 mil­lion in funds from the fed­eral govern­ment each year.

McGinty is a firm op­po­nent of House Bill 1948, which is in its sec­ond con­sid­er­a­tion in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, a bill that would limit abor­tions to cases of med­i­cal ne­ces­sity.

“I am op­posed to mis­guided bills, such as HB 1948 in the Penn­syl­va­nia Leg­is­la­ture, that would elim­i­nate women’s ac­cess to health care ser­vices and dras­ti­cally take women’s health care back­wards,” McGinty said.

“I sup­port a woman’s right to make her own med­i­cal de­ci­sions, pri­vately. I be­lieve that our govern­ment should re­spect a woman’s con­sti­tu­tional right to make per­sonal de­ci­sions about med­i­cally com­plex is­sues – not in­ter­fere with them,” she added.

For­eign pol­icy

Com­bat­ting the ter­ror­ist group known as IS or ISIS has found a com­mon ground be­tween the two can­di­dates in this race: more airstrikes. The safety of the cit­i­zens of the United States be­ing the fo­cus of a more ag­gres­sive cam­paign against ter­ror­ism in Syria and Iraq, both can­di­dates said.

“We need to pur­sue a strat­egy to de­stroy the Is­lamic State, not just con­tain it,” Toomey said. “This should in­clude in­ten­si­fy­ing airstrikes and pro­vid­ing more aid di­rectly to our al­lies on the ground.”

“ISIS poses a sig­nif­i­cant threat to our coun­try, our al­lies, and our na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests,” McGinty said. “I sup­port in­ten­si­fied airstrikes against ISIS, and con­tin­ued ef­forts to aid and as­sist lo­cal se­cu­rity forces that are fight­ing the bat­tle against ISIS on the ground.”

Toomey has called for a sus­pen­sion of refugee set­tle­ments in the United States from “ter­ror­ist havens” un­til “we can be cer­tain ter­ror­ists can­not elude our cur­rent screen­ing process.”

Toomey said the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of the fed­eral govern­ment is the se­cu­rity of the na­tion, which he sug­gests his op­po­nent, McGinty, is lax on.

“I be­lieve the poli­cies pur­sued by the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion have made the world far less safe, while my op­po­nent has made it clear she would rub­ber-stamp this fail­ing agenda,” he said.

The clo­sure of the Guan­tanamo Bay de­ten­tion camp was one of the first ac­tions that Pres­i­dent Obama had in­tended to take when he as­sumed of­fice. That was in 2009. In 2016, the camp re­mains ac­tive.

“I be­lieve Guan­tanamo Bay is ideal to house the world’s most dan­ger­ous ter­ror­ists,” Toomey said. “My op­po­nent ‘ap­plauds’ ef­forts to close the pri­son.”

In Jan­uary 2016, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased a re­port that said at least 12 for­mer de­tainees at Guan­tanamo were in­volved in at­tacks on al­lied forces in Afghanistan that killed a half-dozen Amer­i­cans.

“So far, many of the ter­ror­ists that leave Guan­tanamo Bay have re­turned to the bat­tle­field to launch fur­ther at­tacks on the U.S. and our al­lies,” Toomey said.

McGinty said that open­ing Guan­tanamo was a “mis­take” and that she “would work to en­sure that any fur­ther ac­tion we take on this mat­ter does not fur­ther en­dan­ger the se­cu­rity of Amer­i­cans.”

“I op­pose the trans­fer of any pris­oner at Guan­tanamo Bay un­til we know for cer­tain that they won’t re­turn to the bat­tle­field,” McGinty said.

In re­gards to the nu­clear agree­ment with Iran, which the White House touted as a “his­toric deal that will pre­vent Iran from ac­quir­ing a nu­clear weapon,” Toomey, and many Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts in Congress, dis­agree.

“The Iran nu­clear deal has been a dis­as­ter, and I have op­posed it from the very start. My op­po­nent called it the ‘best op­tion,’” Toomey said. “In­stead, we should re-im­pose harsh sanc­tions that make it harder for Iran to pur­sue a nu­clear weapon and con­tinue fund­ing ter­ror­ism.”

McGinty said, in­deed it was the “best op­tion to achiev­ing that goal.”

“We must never al­low Iran to get a nu­clear weapon,” McGinty said. “That deal, if rig­or­ously en­forced, will con­strain Iran’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram.”

The econ­omy

The econ­omy is of­ten con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant is­sues for Amer­i­can vot­ers, and it’s par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant in this elec­tion year, as many av­er­age Amer­i­cans are still strug­gling with the after-ef­fects of the Great Re­ces­sion.

“We are liv­ing through the worst eco­nomic re­cov­ery in 60 years,” Toomey said. “Pres­i­dent Obama will be the first pres­i­dent in mod­ern times to go eight years in a row with less than 3 per­cent eco­nomic growth.”

Toomey said the in­come gap has widened, wages have be­come stag­nant and the record low per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans in the work­force has at­tribute to the near dou­bling of the na­tional debt that has bur­dened fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. He called McGinty an “un­apolo­getic rub­ber stamp for the poli­cies that got us here.”

“But I refuse to con­sider this the new nor­mal,” Toomey said.

“My plan for get­ting our coun­try back on the right track in­cludes fix­ing our com­pli­cated and un­fair tax code, peel­ing back the reg­u­la­tions ham­per­ing in­no­va­tion and growth, em­brac­ing health care poli­cies that em­power pa­tients in­stead of bu­reau­crats, and re­ject­ing the cor­po­rate wel­fare that lim­its op­por­tu­ni­ties for hard­work­ing Penn­syl­va­ni­ans,” Toomey said. “I am con­fi­dent that th­ese poli­cies will re­store the free­dom and pros­per­ity that is our birthright as Amer­i­cans.”

McGinty said her top pri­or­ity in this Se­nate race is to cre­ate good-pay­ing jobs and ex­pand op­por­tu­ni­ties for mid­dle-class fam­i­lies.

McGinty said she would work to bring “more good­pay­ing, fam­ily-sus­tain­ing jobs” to Penn­syl­va­nia by “putting an end to th­ese bad trade deals that have elim­i­nated thou­sands of jobs right here in Penn­syl­va­nia. She added that she would work to end tax breaks “for com­pa­nies that ship Amer­i­can jobs over­seas.”

“I be­lieve that we need to make our skilled work­force a pri­or­ity, by in­vest­ing in job train­ing and ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams,” McGinty said. “And I will work to put a lid on the ris­ing cost of col­lege ed­u­ca­tion – by link­ing fed­eral sup­port for schools to their suc­cess in con­tain­ing costs.”

McGinty said she will be a vo­cal ad­vo­cate in the Se­nate for re­build­ing Amer­ica’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor.

“I be­lieve that a great coun­try does not just buy stuff; a great coun­try makes and builds stuff. And when our work­ers are given the chance to com­pete on a fair play­ing field, they are sec­ond to none.”

McGinty is a pro­po­nent to rais­ing the min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour as well as pay eq­uity for men and women.

“We need to close the wage gap once and for all,” she said. “It is hard to be­lieve that in 2016 women in Penn­syl­va­nia earn just 79 cents for ev­ery dol­lar earned by their male coun­ter­parts, and pass­ing equal pay leg­is­la­tion will strengthen our fam­i­lies and our com­mu­ni­ties.”


Im­mi­gra­tion is an is­sue that has been at the fore­front of the pres­i­den­tial race, and it’s also rel­e­vant for sen­a­tors who will need to work with the next pres­i­dent on craft­ing im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

Toomey said Amer­ica has long ben­e­fited from le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and the con­tri­bu­tions of those who have come to this coun­try will­ing to work hard and seek a bet­ter life, but the coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem to­day is fun­da­men­tally bro­ken.

“Our bor­ders are not se­cure, and our im­mi­gra­tion laws are be­ing bro­ken by both em­ploy­ers try­ing to skirt the rules and those who seek to come here il­le­gally,” Toomey said. “That

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is run­ning for re-elec­tion against Demo­crat Katie McGinty.

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