Penn­syl­va­nia Se­nate race too close to call

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Marc Levy

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.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST MEDIA

Katie McGinty ar­rives to vote at Our Lady of the As­sump­tion Church in Wayne, Ch­ester County.

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