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November 07, 2016

2016 Pennsylvania general election: What you need to know

Tuesday's general election — you might have heard — features a heated presidential race between two of the most unpopular candidates in decades. Nevertheless, the show goes on.

But there is far more at stake than determining the next person to take hold of the White House. Pennsylvania features a number of competitive races. 

A hotly-contested U.S. Senate race is taking place between a freshman incumbent and a Democrat looking to become Pennsylvania's first female senator. Following Kathleen Kane's drastic fall, the open seat battle for attorney general features a pair of local candidates. And there's also a competitive race playing out in the Eighth Congressional District, where a Republican hopes to replace his retiring brother.

As you head out to vote, here's a rundown of what to expect, as well as a list of voter resources:


Democrat Hillary Clinton, alongside running mate Tim Kaine, seeks to succeed President Barack Obama in the White House. So does Republican Donald Trump and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. Pennsylvania, with its 20 prized electoral votes, could be a battleground state, though recent polls suggest the state is leaning toward Clinton. A Republican has not captured the Keystone State since George H.W. Bush won the presidency in 1988. 

For those unenamored by Trump and Clinton, there are a trio of third party tickets seeking office — Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka of the Green Party, Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley of the Constitution Party, and Gary Johnson and William Weld of the Libertarian Party.

Significantly, the next president of the United States will help set the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court and decide the future of the Affordable Care Act.


The race between freshman U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, is considered one of the most competitive Senate campaigns in the country. At varying times, polls have favored either candidate. Toomey is a fiscal conservative who fought to expand background checks for gun purchases and has been outspoken against sanctuary cities like Philadelphia. McGinty, the former chief of staff for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, has cast herself as a champion of the middle class while blasting Toomey for his indecisiveness regarding Donald Trump. Libertarian Edward Clifford is also on the ballot.


Thanks to the unraveling of former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who was found guilty of perjury and criminal conspiracy, an open seat battle is playing out between two Montgomery County candidates. Democrat Josh Shapiro, a county commissioner and former state representative, faces off against Republican John Rafferty, a state senator since 2003 and former deputy attorney general.


U.S. Rep. Robert Brady seeks re-election in the First Congressional District, which encompasses portions of Delaware County and much of south and central Philadelphia. Brady, head of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, is seeking his 10th full term in Washington. He is opposed by Republican Deborah Williams, an insurance agent who previously ran against Brady in 2004. If elected, Williams would become the first black woman to serve in Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation.


The Second Congressional District currently sits vacant due to the resignation of Chaka Fattah, who resigned after he was found guilty of racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges in federal court. Democrat Dwight Evans defeated Fattah during a four-person primary challenge. The longtime state legislator goes up against Republican James Jones, a Navy veteran and human resources consultant. The 2nd District includes portions of Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, and much of North, Northwest and West Philadelphia.


Incumbent Republican Ryan Costello seeks a second term in the Sixth Congressional District, which includes portions of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lebanon counties. Costello, a lawyer and former Chester County recorder of deeds, faces Democrat Mike Parrish, a former Army aviator who runs a natural resources company in West Chester.


U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican, faces Democrat Mary Ellen Balchunis in a rematch of the 2014 election, which Meehan won handily. Meehan, seeking his fourth term, is a former U.S. Attorney and Delaware County district attorney. Balchunis is a longtime political science professor at La Salle University. The gerrymandered district includes most of Delaware County and portions of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lancaster counties.


State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat, and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick are vying for the open Eighth Congressional seat in the most competitive U.S. House race in Pennsylvania. Santarsiero has served as a state lawmaker since 2009. Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent and the brother of the retiring seatholder, Mike Fitzpatrick. The district includes all of Bucks County and portions of Montgomery County.


U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat completing his first term, is running unopposed in the 13th Congressional District, which includes portions of Montgomery County and Philadelphia.


Republican state Sen. Lloyd Smucker squares off against Democrat Christina Hartman and Libertarian Shawn Patrick House in the open 16th Congressional District, which includes most of Lancaster County and portions of Chester and Berks counties. The seat previously was held by longtime U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts.


All 203 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, including seven open seats in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Half of the Senate — 25 seats — is up for re-election. There is only one open seat in Southeastern Pennsylvania — the Third District, where Democrat Shirley Kitchen is retiring. But Sharif Street, the son of former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, is running unopposed.


Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, is running for re-election against Republican John Brown, Green Party candidate John Sweeney and Libertarian Roy Minet. The open seat race for state treasurer pits Democrat Joe Torsella, Republican Otto Voit, Green Party candidate Kristin Combs and Libertarian James Babb.


All Pennsylvania voters will be asked to decide whether the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to extend the maximum age for judges, including those on the state Supreme Court, from 70 years to 75 years. Read more here

Philadelphia voters will be asked to decide whether the city should borrow $184,303,000 in bonds to finance a wide range of municipal infrastructure and community development investments. Read more here


Polls in Pennsylvania are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. Anybody in line by 8 p.m. must be allowed to vote. You can find your polling place here. Report issues or problems encountered at the polling place to the Philadelphia County Board of Elections at 215-686-1590.


Like all Pennsylvanians, Philadelphians are encouraged to vote and call the DA's Election Fraud Task Force at 215-686-9641, 9643 or 9644 if they experience any difficulty casting their ballot.


It should be a picture-perfect day to do your part as an American. The National Weather Service forecast calls for sunny skies, with a high near 66, and a west wind around 7 mph. The temperature drops to about 54 degrees by the time the polls close.