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April 26, 2016

McGinty defeats Sestak to win Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate

Fetterman finishes distant third

Katie McGinty took the victory stage to chants of "Katie, Katie, Katie" late Tuesday night at the IATSE Ballroom in South Philadelphia.

"Are we eager to bring this fight forward to November?" McGinty shouted back to a crowd of supporters.

The party-backed candidate, McGinty defeated Joe Sestak and John Fetterman to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. 

With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting in Pennsylvania, McGinty had received 42.5 percent of the vote to Sestak's 32.5 percent and Fetterman's 19.8 percent, according to the Associated Press. A fourth candidate, Joseph Vodvarka, had received 5.6 percent. All vote totals are unofficial. 

McGinty, a former state environmental secretary and chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, advances to face incumbent Pat Toomey, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

"I'm not just talking about being in the arena – I've been there before," said McGinty, who served as an environmental adviser during the Clinton administration. "It would be the greatest honor of my life to be back in the arena beside this great senator, (Bob Casey), as your next United States senator from Pennsylvania."

In her acceptance speech, McGinty laid out a political agenda that included increasing the minimum wage, ensuring equal pay for women and making college affordable. She called for improving infrastructure, protecting labor and providing universal pre-K.

"Pennsylvania, it's your turn to get that shot at the American Dream," McGinty said. "It's got to be that when you do work hard, you get ahead. That's the secret sauce of this great country."

McGinty also used her stage to criticize her new opponent, Toomey, for prior votes to shut down the government and for his position against granting Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a Senate hearing. She repeatedly tied him to Donald Trump, who won Pennsylvania's Republican presidential primary.

In his acceptance speech on Tuesday night, Toomey talked about the basis for his campaign heading into November.

“I assure you people on the far left are not bashful about telling me when they disagree with me. And that’s OK," he said. "They’re entitled to their opinion and to express it.

"Let me tell you a little bit about how I view two fundamental aspects of my job. One fundamental aspect is to uphold the principles that we believe in. I think these are the principles that allowed us to become the greatest society in the history of the world, and they’re the principles that will allow us to be even greater in the future if we abide by them. These are the ideas of limited government, personal freedom, individual responsibility, a strong national defense, respect for our Constitution, and the sovereignty of our country."

If elected, McGinty would become the first woman to serve as a Pennsylvania senator. 

She came from behind to beat Sestak in a race that polls initially forecasted would be closer. 

The latest poll, released Monday by Harper polling, showed McGinty leading Sestak by six percentage points. That followed a poll, released last week by Monmouth University, that showed McGinty and Sestak deadlocked. Sestak had led in earlier polls.

"My superstitions are too much for me to take those numbers here," McGinty said earlier Tuesday. "That's why we've been out working for every vote today."

After voting at her Wayne polling place, McGinty attended a pair of election day lunches before heading into Center City. There, she greeted potential voters alongside Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General candidate Josh Shapiro and U.S. House candidate Dwight Evans.

McGinty smiled enthusiastically as she greeted potential voters as they walked along the corner of 15th and Market streets during the afternoon rush. She beamed the same smile late Tuesday night.

"I think there's a lot of energy and a lot of momentum out there," McGinty said. "I'm feeling like people are paying attention. We've got a lot of good wind in our sails and we're counting every vote, but feeling good."

Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, voted in Gradyville, Delaware County, as soon as polls opened Tuesday morning. He had an election night gathering in Media.

Fetterman, mayor of Braddock, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, spent his day campaigning in Western Pennsylvania. He took time to greet the lunch crowd at Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh, but said he was particularly grateful to the support being sent his way on social media.

"It's just an enormous amount of love online," Fetterman said in an phone interview. "Twitter has just been nuts. It's been a wonderful day."

Fetterman, 46, seemingly appealed to voters seeking a Washington outsider. He ran a "social justice"-oriented campaign centered on the issues of income inequality, gun violence and marijuana legalization. But polls showed him running more than 15 points behind McGinty and Sestak.

"I couldn't be happier and more proud of the campaign we've run," Fetterman said. "We've been outspent 15-to-1. At the end of the day, money is important. It shouldn't be that way."

Yet, Fetterman said he has received numerous compliments from people dubbing him as the winner of debates and heralding him for not reverting to talking points.

"My message, win or lose, is going to be gratitude for how we've been received across Pennsylvania," Fetterman said.

McGinty, 52, and Sestak, 64, have very similar, progressive stances on most Democratic issues. Their biggest difference might have been the source of their support.

McGinty drew a slew of endorsements from established Democrats. Everyone from President Barack Obama to former Gov. Ed Rendell to former Mayor Michael Nutter has endorsed McGinty. She's also gained the support of EMILY's List and various labor groups.

Sestak is perhaps best known for knocking off former Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary six years ago, a move that angered some Democratic leaders. He then lost a close race to Toomey. But he essentially had been campaigning for well over a year, making it a high priority to meet with voters across the state.

Sestak served two terms in Congress from 2007 to 2011.

Vodvarka, who manufactures springs and wire forms, previously ran for the Senate in both 2010 and 2012. Unlike most Democrats, he seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act, touts his National Rifle Association membership and seeks to build a fence along the country's southern border. His campaign has barely registered among recent polls.