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McGinty gets on biggest stage in Pennsylvania US Senate race

July 29, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democratic Party officials gave Katie McGinty another big gift besides millions of dollars in campaign funds to help in her bid to unseat Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey in the November election.

McGinty spoke Thursday evening at the Democratic National Convention in her native Philadelphia, making her one of only two U.S. Senate candidates to get such a high-profile speaking slot.

It was likely McGinty’s biggest stage of the campaign, with millions of people watching on TV and thousands more on hand in the Wells Fargo Center as Democrats try to wrestle away control of the chamber. U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, also spoke Thursday evening as she challenges Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk for his seat.

There was little, if any, crowd engagement as McGinty spoke, and much of her speech was a rehash of foundational campaign talking points. Still, it was a marked contrast with the first-term Toomey.

He skipped last week’s Republican National Convention, saying he preferred to use the time to campaign in Pennsylvania. McGinty has endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, while Toomey remains skeptical of the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and has not given his endorsement.

Polls show a competitive race between Toomey and McGinty in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 4-3 ratio.

In Carlisle on Thursday evening, Toomey told a crowd of several dozen people that “we are in an incredible, intense battle” in which Democratic Party-aligned groups are spending more to defeat him than any other Republican senator this year. In a demonstration of the challenge before him, Toomey faced blunt questions from voters at the Market Cross Pub and Brewery about why he won’t endorse Trump.

“He’s either going to win or lose, and he is our nominee, and if he wins in Pennsylvania, he will pull you through,” Rachel McKinney told Toomey.

He also faced questions about his stance on gun control after breaking party ranks in 2013 on a hot-button issue in a state passionate about gun rights.

McGinty, in her speech, brought up familiar talking points: pitching to the middle class by playing up her Irish-immigrant grandparents, her parents’ blue-collar jobs and growing economic insecurity and inequality. She also attacked Toomey by tying him to Trump and his investment banking past.

“Hardworking people are feeling anxious and insecure,” McGinty said in a speech that seemed to barely register with the crowd. “But we have a choice. Our choice is how do we respond. It’s this choice that’s on the ballot in November. Now, we could respond with more scapegoating and fearmongering. That’s the tack that Donald Trump and my opponent, Pat Toomey. Blame the Mexicans. Blame the Muslims. Blame the government. Build a wall.”

Toomey has been critical of some of Trump’s inflammatory statements, such as his pledge to bar Muslims from entering the United States.

Anticipating the speech, the Toomey campaign on Thursday countered with a rundown of tax increases that McGinty had supported in her career as a top official in President Bill Clinton’s administration and in Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, and rehashed its accusation that she has parlayed public office into lucrative private-sector work.

“Despite her political speech tonight, Katie McGinty’s record is one of middle-class job-killing regulations, massive tax hikes aimed squarely at middle-class pocketbooks and using government service to enrich herself,” Toomey said in a statement. “That’s the last thing we need more of in Washington.”

McGinty’s speech came three days after her latest campaign misstep. During a news conference at a labor union’s Philadelphia office to promote a higher minimum wage, she called Toomey an “asshole.” She apologized, but Republicans have seized on that and aired a TV ad in Philadelphia to coincide with her speech. The ad, which bleeps out the word, pastes video of the remark into material from a widely aired Clinton campaign TV ad that shows Clinton speaking at a podium and children watching Trump on TV while he makes vulgar or abrupt remarks. But instead of Trump, it shows children watching McGinty’s vulgar remark on TV.

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