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Challenge of Sen. Toomey's seat a key national race

Written by Rick Lee, York Daily Record | Mar 31, 2016 4:30 PM
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Candidates, open your checkbooks 

(York) -- The race for the one Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat up for election this year promises to be an expensive one, political expert G. Terry Madonna said.

In  the approaching primary, four Democrats are vying for the chance to face and unseat first-term incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

"This is one of the single most important races in the country. The Democrats need to reclaim the five seats they lost in 2014," said Madonna, the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. "It (Toomey's seat) is targeted as one of the top five for takeover by the Democrats."

Nationwide, the GOP has 24 seats up for re-election and the Democrats have 10.

And, Republicans are willing to pay big not to lose any seats, Madonna said.

"This will be the most expensive race," Madonna predicted. "There will be millions (of dollars) coming in from out of state, from PACs."

Clearly aware of the challenge, GOP backers put close to $10 million in Toomey's war chest as of Dec. 31, 2015, the last campaign finance reporting period.

Toomey spent some $13 million to win his seat in 2010. His Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, spent around $10 million in his effort to capture the seat.

A retired vice admiral, Sestak is back, seeking a rematch with Toomey. Sestak first must survive the April 26 Democratic primary, which includes Senate candidates:

Pittsburgh businessman Joe Vodvarka has been removed from the primary ballot by the Commonwealth Court. Sestak had challenged Vodvarka's nominating petitions and the court agreed on Wednesday that Vodvarka did not have enough valid signatures.

"There are three candidates actively campaigning," Madonna said, speaking of Sestak, McGinty and Fetterman. "It looks like Katie McGinty is the candidate of the party establishment, although she did not get an endorsement from the state (Democratic) committee."

The state committee did not endorse any of Democratic candidates. McGinty, however, did pick up endorsements from President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"Sestak has been a tireless worker, criss-crossing the state and meeting with Democrats in small groups," Madonna said. "He has a lot of rural Democrats. And, he leads in the polls. Sestak has been leading the polls by 8, 10, 12 points. But, that doesn't mean he is going to win."

In pre-election polls, while Sestak has continued to lead his Democratic opponents, polls also show Toomey staying comfortably ahead of his Democratic challengers.

Financially, as it stands, or stood at the end of 2015, according to the Federal Election Commission, none of the Democrats were close to matching Toomey's campaign bank roll.

Sestak was closest with a distant $2.5 million, McGinty had $1.1 million, Fetterman had slightly under $10,000 and Vodvarka reported $176 in cash on hand.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

Published in News, York

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