Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

3 Democrats Challenging Sen. Toomey Offer Similar Views in Polite First Debate

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

3 Democrats Challenging Sen. Toomey Offer Similar Views in Polite First Debate

Article excerpt

The three Democrats hoping to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey this fall introduced themselves to Pittsburgh voters Sunday afternoon . and the introductions were almost unfailingly polite.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, Katie McGinty, a former gubernatorial chief of staff; and former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak appeared at a candidates' forum before several hundred people at Carnegie Mellon University. It was the first time the candidates have publicly debated together, though there were few policy differences to help tell them apart.

Speaking at an event hosted by Democratic groups from the city's liberal East End, all three challengers had sounded warnings about income inequality and climate change, while insisting the nation had a moral obligation to accept Syrian refugees.

They also had kind words for the health care overhauls collectively called "Obamacare." Ms. McGinty called it "something that Democrats have to be proud of." Mr. Sestak and Mr. Fetterman both said they envisioned more sweeping changes, though Mr. Fetterman allowed that any changes would have to be an "evolution, not an overnight revolution."

The candidates largely avoided attacking each other, preferring instead to highlight their own backgrounds, while repeating points they've made on the campaign trail.

Mr. Fetterman, who at 6 feet, 8 inches tall struggled with the height of his microphone, mocked his stature while describing his work as mayor of long-suffering Braddock.

"No one up here on this stage has championed the idea that black lives matter more than I do," he said, touting a five-year pause on homicides during his tenure as mayor.

Mr. Sestak pointed to his success at serving two terms in a largely Republican congressional district, as well as his work crafting bipartisan legislation on autism and elder abuse. A retired admiral, he also drew on his military background for answers on everything from climate change to the Middle East, where he said military solutions should be "on the back of the table, not the front of the table. …

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