Personalities Take Center Stagein Tightening U.S. Senate Race; the Race for the Democratic Nomination to Take on U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey in November Has Intensified, with the Three Candidates Largely Turning from Attacking the Lehigh Valley Republican to Hammering Each Other. [Derived Headline]

By Fontaine, Tom | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

Personalities Take Center Stagein Tightening U.S. Senate Race; the Race for the Democratic Nomination to Take on U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey in November Has Intensified, with the Three Candidates Largely Turning from Attacking the Lehigh Valley Republican to Hammering Each Other. [Derived Headline]


Fontaine, Tom, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The race for the Democratic nomination to take on U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey in November has intensified, with the three candidates largely turning from attacking the Lehigh Valley Republican to hammering each other.

Former Navy admiral and U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, who lost to Toomey in 2010, has maintained the upper hand in polls against Pennsylvania's former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.

McGinty has narrowed the gap at the top of the race in recent weeks with the help of an aggressive advertising blitz and endorsements from nearly two dozen labor unions and more than 50 elected officials, including President Obama. She has raised more than $1.8 million this year, about three times more than Sestak, and been supported by millions of dollars from outside groups, reports show.

The primary is April 26.

"I'm proud to have so many people standing with me. They recognize that I've been out there fighting for people. The momentum has decidedly moved in our direction," said McGinty, 52, of Chester County.

From his position at the bottom of the three-way race, Fetterman doesn't like what he sees.

"If McGinty prevails, it will only be because of a geyser of money and outside influence. It would be another sad day for America," said Fetterman, 46.

"Money has been the only barrier we've had. When people see us in debates or meet us in person, they say, 'Hey, I love this guy.' If I come up short in this race, it's sad because it's only about money," said Fetterman, who entered the race in September.

Sestak, 64, did not talk with the Tribune-Review.

"This campaign is about personalities and style. On 100 issues in the Senate, these candidates would probably vote the same way on 98 of them. I don't think the issues are as defining as who these candidates are," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Politics and Public Affairs.

Sestak grew up in Delaware County and attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated second in his class. He earned a doctorate from Harvard. Sestak spent 31 years in the Navy and retired as a two-star admiral. Sestak has said he retired in 2005 to help care for his daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer and recovered, and that the experience drove him to run for Congress because he saw that many Americans didn't have access to high quality health care.

Sestak made enemies within his party when he refused to drop out of the Democrats' 2010 Senate race. His opponent, party-switching U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, had been endorsed by Obama and other party leaders. Sestak beat Specter, then lost to Toomey by 2 percentage points. Since then, Sestak has been a regular at political forums, fundraisers and other events -- prompting many to say that he hasn't stopped campaigning for the Senate seat.

"Anywhere five Democrats would meet, he'd be there. He's probably worn out 20 pairs of shoes campaigning," Madonna said. "No matter what you think about Joe Sestak, no one can question his effort. He's indefatigable, he's relentless, he's tireless."

McGinty grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, the ninth of 10 children. …

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Personalities Take Center Stagein Tightening U.S. Senate Race; the Race for the Democratic Nomination to Take on U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey in November Has Intensified, with the Three Candidates Largely Turning from Attacking the Lehigh Valley Republican to Hammering Each Other. [Derived Headline]
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