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State of the Race: Campaign for Pennsylvania US Senate seat

Written by Marc Levy, The Associated Press | Apr 14, 2016 3:10 PM
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Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate debate at Penn State's University Park campus on Saturday night, April 9th.

(Harrisburg) -- Thursday is the deadline for candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania to report their campaign fundraising and spending activity in 2016 and details are starting to trickle out. Also, more ads are hitting the airwaves and more endorsements are coming out with less than two weeks to go until the April 26 primary election. Democrats have a three-way primary contest to see who will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who is seeking a second six-year term in the November election. The seat is expected to be crucial to determining control of the U.S. Senate. Here is a look at the latest activity:

The incumbent

Toomey has no primary challenger and is reporting $9.2 million in his campaign bank account as of April 6. He raised almost $2.5 million from Jan. 1 to April 6, and he spent slightly more than that.

The Toomey campaign has aired four TV commercials in recent weeks touting Toomey's support for a rescue of a southeastern Pennsylvania oil refinery, undoing President Barack Obama's administration's restrictions on police access to U.S. military gear and legislation to curb painkiller abuse and expand background checks on firearms purchases.

The Democrats 

Three people are running in the Democratic Party primary: John Fetterman, the three-term mayor of Braddock, a tiny, impoverished steel town near Pittsburgh; Katie McGinty, who has held high-level posts in state and federal government over the last 25 years, mostly as an environmental policy official; and Joe Sestak, a retired Navy rear admiral and former two-term congressman from suburban Philadelphia.

Sestak is returning for a rematch with Toomey after losing to Toomey by 2 percentage points in 2010. He leads polls in the Democratic primary race.

Campaign finance

Few details are available so far about the Democrats' campaign finances through April 6. McGinty's campaign said earlier this week that it had raised more than $1.8 million in the period, but it did not say how much the campaign spent or how much it had left in the bank.

As of Dec. 31, Sestak had reported $2.6 million in his campaign account. McGinty reported $1.2 million and Fetterman reported $131,000.

Also spending money on behalf of McGinty are three groups: the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Service Employees International Union and Emily's List. The trio has reported spending nearly $3 million combined. Meanwhile, a new group named Accountable Leadership has reported spending $730,000 to air TV ads in support of Sestak.

Endorsements

McGinty is endorsed by Obama, and the campaign began touting the endorsement both in a television ad and radio ad released this week. The radio ad featured the president's voice.

Sestak was endorsed this week by the editorial boards of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. On Thursday, Fetterman was endorsed by D. Bruce Hanes, the clerk of the Montgomery County Orphan's Court, who began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in 2013, when Pennsylvania's ban was still in force.

Marc Levy covers politics and government for The Associated Press in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at mlevy@ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/marc-levy.

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