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November 09, 2016

Toomey beats McGinty in most expensive U.S. Senate race

His victory helps secure a Republican majority in the Senate

Incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey watched his re-election bid come down to the wire Tuesday, but by early Wednesay morning he was assured that he'll retain his seat in the U.S. Senate for another six years. 

Toomey topped Democratic challenger Katie McGinty, helping the GOP maintain control of the Senate on a big night for Republicans. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to win the presidential race as Republicans also kept their majority in the U.S. House.

The Associated Press declared Toomey the winner at 1:14 a.m. as the presidential race hang in the balance. 

Toomey took 48.76 percent of the Pennsylvania vote, according to unoffical tallies released by the Pennsylvania Department of State. McGinty finished with 47.68 percent — a mere 1.8 point difference. 

Toomey, a former three-term congressman, was considered one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. A fiscal hawk, he was seeking a second term after compiling one of the most conservative voting records in Congress. 

Toomey pledged to continue working to cut taxes, repeal the Affordable Care Act and strengthen law enforcement during an acceptance speech delivered shortly after 1:30 a.m.

"I will do it in a way that respects the opinions of people who disagree with me," Toomey said, according to the Allentown Morning Call.

McGinty, who has never held public office, was trying to become Pennsylvania's first female senator. The 53-year-old worked in Bill Clinton's White House and was recruited by top Washington Democrats to challenge Toomey.

McGinty, of Wayne, Chester County, addressed a sparse group of supporters and campaign staffers around 1:40 a.m. from the Center City Sheraton. Several hundred Democrats had gathered there earlier in the evening, but as the night went deeper and their prospects became more bleak, their numbers dwindled. 

By the time McGinty apperaed, around 1:40 a.m., to deliver her concession speech, those remaining consoled one another with hugs. Many wore blank faces. Some cried.

"Now, of course, we're just a little bit disappointed in the results tonight," McGinty said. "But there are some things that are true now and forever. I very happily stand for the right of every man and woman in Pennsylvania to have their voice heard in elections.

"When they do have their voice heard it's nothing short of a privilege to welcome and respect that voice," she said. "Because this is a Democracy, and that's what we do. I believe, even with disappointment, that our greatest days are still ahead."

Toomey tried to distance himself from Trump as he appealed to moderate Democrats and independent voters willing to split their tickets, particularly in Philadelphia's heavily populated suburbs. He spent months refusing to say whether he would support Trump. 

But after casting his ballot at his Zionville, Lehigh County polling place, Toomey told reporters that he had voted for Trump. He described his decision as a "tough call" that he "wrestled with ... for a long time."

"It was easy for me to rule out Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons," Toomey told reporters. "I did that and I was very public about that. I also have been very, very clear for many months now that I had a lot of problems with Donald Trump. I still do. I think there are serious questions about his temperament and judgment and policy position that he's taken that I disagree with. 

"I had to weigh that against the possibility of what could be accomplished if he were president — things like repealing Obamacare, things like restoring sanctions on Iran, things like ending sanctuary cities."

Toomey and McGinty spent the previous six months — not to mention millions and millions of campaign dollars — running one the most exhaustingly competitive races in the country.

As the race came down to its final sprint Tuesday, both candidates spent the day greeting voters, hoping to scrounge up every last vote. The latest polls showed Toomey, the Republican incumbent, and McGinty, his Democratic challenger, essentially deadlocked.

McGinty, looking to become the first woman elected U.S. Senator in the Keystone State, thanked campaign volunteers at a staging area on Girard Avenue before greeting another busload of campaign volunteers from New York. She cast her ballot Tuesday morning alongside her family at her polling place in Wayne, Chester County.

Toomey, a fiscal conservative elected in 2010, dropped by polling places in Orefield, Lehigh County, as well as Quakertown and Perkasie in Bucks County. He waited to cast his vote in his hometown of Zionville, Lehigh County until 6:45 p.m. — a decision that drew criticism from the McGinty campaign.

The McGinty campaign consistently hammered Toomey for refusing to say whether he would vote for Trump, and did so again Tuesday by chastising Toomey for withholding his vote until about an hour before polls closed.

The strong voter turnout and good weather witnessed throughout Philadelphia seemingly favored McGinty, whose path to victory required winning Philly, its suburbs and Pittsburgh by wide margins. Democrats often fair better with high turnout, but it was not enough to deliver her a victory.

"We have to pull the great people of this wonderful country together," McGinty said. "Because the future is in our hands to make sure that we safeguard what is and continues to be the greatest experiment in self-determination, in self governance, in pluralism, in diversity that the world has ever seen. This experiment is entrusted in our hands."

Toomey needed to cut his losses in Democratic strongholds and gain strong support throughout the rest of Pennsylvania, which heavily favors Republican candidates. 

Despite Toomey's hesistance to embrace Trump, he won the support of Sonny Jenkins, 63, of Bensalem Township, Bucks County. Jenkins said he voted straight Republican.

"It's like Trump says, it's time to make America great again," Jenkins said.

Toomey, 54, cast himself as a fiscal conservative fighting to keep Americans safe, proudly boasting of the varied law enforcement agencies that have endorsed his campaign. He has fought ardently against sanctuary cities and strongly rebuked the international nuclear deal with Iran.

Toomey also has served as a reliable Republican vote, pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, halt payments to Planned Parenthood and oppose a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But he crossed the aisle to co-sponsor an expansion on background checks on gun purchases.

That annoyed one Philadelphia voter — a middle-aged woman who declined to give her name or age — who said Toomey was not conservative enough for her. But it drew the approval of Justin Shuman, a typically Republican voter who wrote in a name for president.

"I view him very much as a bipartisan politician who can reach across the aisle," said Shuman, 32, of Center City. "I appreciate the fact that he did not leverage the Trump brand in his candidacy. He ran a candidacy based on his merits and himself."

But some voters who supported McGinty questioned whether Toomey would work with Hillary Clinton, if the Democratic presidential nominee wins the election. James O'Sullivan, 32, of Center City, saw McGinty as the best option to produce immigration reform, a robust infrastructure bill and climate change initiatives.

"I do support Mrs. McGinty and I don't like Mr. Toomey," O'Sullivan said. "I think it's important Mrs. Clinton has a cooperative Senate."

Democrats viewed the seat as essential to their effort to regain control of the Senate and its powers — approving Supreme Court justices and international trade agreements. Several Republicans, including Toomey, had been fighting to hang onto their seats.

Both sides dumped millions of dollars into the race, which played out through countless television advertisements, a barrage of social media postings and traditional door-to-door campaigning. The race stands as the most expensive Senate race of all time.

The negative ads that populated broadcasts throughout the region initially had Linda Sanders opposed to McGinty. But she ended up voting for her after learning more about the candidates.

"I tried to be impartial," said Sanders, 67, of Bensalem, Bucks County. "All the ads made me not like McGinty. But, then I heard all the money that was spent on the ads against her and I don't believe they were all true."

McGinty painted herself as a champion of the middle class, advocating for a $15 per hour minimum wage, increasing taxes for the rich and eliminating corporate tax breaks. She also supported Clinton's proposal to make tuition at public state colleges and universities free for families with incomes up to $125,000.

McGinty also pledged to defend abortion rights and the ACA, while fighting to rein in out-of-pocket expenses. She sought immigration reform and tighter gun control laws.

Clinton's support of McGinty, who joined the presidential nominee at various campaign events, helped convince Rachel Klos to cast a vote for McGinty.

"I'm a huge Clinton supporter," said Klos, 31, of Center City. "Her work with Katie McGinty spoke in favor for me. I have some concerns around Toomey. I don't think he really stands for women or families."

Toomey, a native of Rhode Island, served as a U.S. representative from 1999 to 2005. He later served as president of the Club for Growth, a free-enterprise advocacy group. A Harvard University graduate, Toomey began his career as an investment banker.

McGinty, a Philadelphia native, formerly served as chief of staff to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. A graduate of Columbia Law school, she was an environmental adviser to former Tennessee Sen. Al Gore and President Bill Clinton. McGinty later served as secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Ed Rendell.

Staff writer Hayden Mitman contributed to this report.