November 08, 2016
Naturally, much attention will be given Tuesday to the presidential race. But Pennsylvania's Senate race between incumbent Republican Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty is destined to catch some of the national spotlight, too.
The race has been one of the most hotly-contested in the country, as Republicans seek to hang onto the Senate majority they claimed during the 2014 midterm elections. But Democrats have targeted Toomey's seat ever since he edged Joe Sestak by two percentage points six years ago.
To Democrats, the Pennsylvania seat is essential to their effort to regain control of the Senate and its powers — approving Supreme Court justices and international trade agreements. They have Republicans fighting to hold onto those powers.
Both sides have dumped millions of dollars into an aggressive race being waged through inescapable 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. Toomey and McGinty's campaigns have combined to spend $31 million in the race, according to the Associated Press. Outside groups have spent another $99 million.
On Tuesday night, one candidate's efforts will come to fruition. According to the latest polls, that winning candidate is likely to be McGinty.
One recent poll, released last week by Franklin & Marshall College, showed McGinty winning by 12 percentage points, an astounding figure given the perceived competitiveness of the race. Other polls also show her winning, but place the margin within two to six points.
Toomey, 54, of Zionsville, Lehigh County, has 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.
During his six years in office, Toomey has been a reliable Republican vote. He has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood and to reject a bipartisan immigration bill that would have created pathway to citizenship and strengthened border security. He also opposed nomination holding hearings to fill the Supreme Court vacancy until after the general election.
But Toomey crossed party lines to co-sponsor gun control legislation that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases. The move dropped his rating with the National Rifle Assocation.
He has repeatedly refused to say whether he'll vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election, saying only that he won't vote for Hillary Clinton. Sensing a vulnerability, McGinty has berated him for his unwillingness to take a stance.
McGinty, 53, of Wayne, Chester County, has painted herself as a champion of the middle class, advocating for a $15 per hour minimum wage, increasing income taxes for workers earning more than $1 million and eliminating unspecified corporate tax breaks. She has supported Clinton's proposal to make tuition at public state colleges and universities free for families with incomes up to $125,000.
McGinty also has pledged to defend abortion rights and the ACA, while fighting to rein in out-of-pocket costs. She has called for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and the overturn of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which brought about the superPACs that have reshaped campaign finance.
She also has called for greater gun control measures, including expanded background checks and a ban on military-style firearms and high-capacity magazines.
But Toomey has taken advantage of a couple of campaign gaffes. McGinty claimed she was the first in her family to graduate from college; her brother graduated from La Salle University eight years before she began studying at St. Joseph's University. During a debate, McGinty's campaign tweeted that she had been endorsed by the International Union of Police Associations, a group that had backed Toomey.
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.
He and his wife, Kris, have two sons and a daughter.
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.
She and her husband, Karl, have three daughters.