Pennsylvania Senate race too close to call
The most expensive political race in U.S. Senate history, Pennsylvania’s contest between Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Democrat Katie McGinty, remained too close to call late Tuesday night, four hours after polls closed.
The race was being watched nationally because it could help decide control of the chamber. But Democrats’ chances of retaking the Senate majority were slipping away as Republicans hung onto key seats in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Indiana and Florida.
A Toomey win in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania would further bolster the GOP’s goal of holding onto its Senate majority — currently 54-46.
In Pennsylvania, recounts are mandatory in contests in which the difference in the returns is 0.5 percent or less of the total vote.
Toomey, a fiscal hawk, was one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. He was running for a second term after compiling one of Congress’ most conservative voting records and had placed an emphasis on appealing to moderate Democrats and independent voters willing to split their tickets, particularly in Philadelphia’s heavily populated suburbs.
McGinty, 54, has never held public office and was trying to become Pennsylvania’s first female U.S. senator. She had worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and was recruited by top Washington Democrats to challenge Toomey.
On Tuesday night, Toomey said he voted for Trump, revealing his choice after saying for months that he had not been persuaded to support the GOP nominee.
Toomey, 53, did not campaign with Trump or talk about him during stump speeches. He has been critical of Trump for months, and remained critical of Trump on Tuesday evening.
“I think there are serious questions about his temperament and judgment, and policy positions he’s taken that I disagree with,” Toomey told reporters after voting at a church near his Allentown-area home. “I had to weigh that against the possibility of what could be accomplished if he were president . ... In the end, I decided we’ve just got to change the course we’re on, so I voted for Donald Trump.”
McGinty had tried to make Toomey’s indecision in the presidential stakes a high-profile campaign issue, painting Toomey as unable to stand up to Trump.
“Come on, Senator Toomey, let us know: Are you standing with Donald Trump or not?” McGinty told reporters Tuesday morning after voting at a church in the Philadelphia suburb of Wayne. “It’s long, long past due for (him) to have stood up for what’s right ... and denounced Donald Trump. It’s really, actually, too late.”
McGinty allied herself closely with Clinton and campaigned with her across Pennsylvania. Toomey characterized McGinty as a “rubber stamp” for a Clinton White House.
In an illustration of his challenge to get re-elected, Toomey has sought to parlay his arm’s-length distance from Trump and a party-crossing vote on background checks on firearms purchases into support from moderate voters.
Toomey even ran a TV ad in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with 2013 footage of Obama — often the target of Toomey’s toughest criticism — praising Toomey for his work on the background checks legislation, despite the bill’s failure.
The race smashed U.S. Senate campaign finance records, with spending on it passing $160 million since the beginning of last year.
McGinty was backed by public-sector unions, the AFL-CIO, abortion-rights activists and environmental advocacy groups. Toomey was backed by business advocacy organizations, police unions, anti-abortion rights activists and conservative fiscal policy groups.
Associated Press writers Errin Haines Whack in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and Megan Trimble in Zionsville, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.
Katie McGinty arrives to vote at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Wayne, Chester County.