April 17, 2016 - 12:21 AM EDT
Print Email Article Font Down Font Up
3 Democrats battling to face Sen. Toomey in Nov. election

April 17--If you judge politicians by the company they keep, here's all you may need to know about the Democrats running for U.S. Senate this year:

Katie McGinty supports the presidential bid of political juggernaut Hillary Clinton. John Fetterman backs progressive insurgent Bernie Sanders. And Joe Sestak hasn't allied himself with either side.

Presidential politics is an important backdrop for efforts to topple the one-term Republican incumbent, Pat Toomey. Respected political prognosticator Larry Sabato called Mr. Toomey's re-election a "toss up," mostly because a divisive Republican presidential nominee, like Donald Trump, could drag Mr. Toomey's numbers down.

Ousting Mr. Toomey is key to Democratic hopes of eroding, or even reversing, the GOP's 54-44 lead over them in the Senate. But it won't be easy.

At last count, Mr. Toomey's campaign bank account had nearly three times as much as his rivals combined. Polls consistently show him leading all three would-be challengers.

A few policy differences will be at stake when Democrats pick their champion April 26. Ms. McGinty and Mr. Fetterman favor hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour, for example, while Mr. Sestak backs an under-$11 increase. The candidates also differ on "fracking" for natural gas. But the strongest contrasts may lie not so much in where they stand, as in as how they got there.

In another election year, Katie McGinty would probably be the Democratic frontrunner. Instead, she's just being attacked like one.

The child of a Philadelphia police officer, Ms. McGinty has a lengthy political resume. After mounting an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014, she served as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff for six months. She'd previously headed Gov. Ed Rendell's Department of Environmental Protection, and held an environmental post in President Bill Clinton's administration.

Having secured the blessing of national Democrats for her campaign, she's almost run the table on winning endorsements. President Barack Obama backs her, calling her "a true champion for working families."

She's also a woman running in a state with an all-male Congressional delegation. Her advocacy for equal-pay laws has gotten support, in the form of TV ads, from a service workers union and EMILY's List, which backs pro-choice Democratic women.

But Ms. McGinty's connections have at times proven double-edged. In private life, she has worked for energy firms, including some she once regulated. Republicans have blasted her for those ties, and for receiving contributions from executives with those firms.

The debate has policy implications. While all three Democrats favor tighter regulation of "fracking" for natural gas, only Mr. Sestak and Mr. Fetterman would impose a moratorium on the process until new rules are enacted. During a WTAE-TV debate earlier this month, they attacked her and Mr. Rendell for not policing the industry more zealously.

Ms. McGinty countered by noting her support from environmental groups, while observing that the firms she's worked with pursue renewable energy -- an industry Mr. Rendell also encouraged. "I have dedicated my entire life to protecting the environment," she said, adding, "I'm proud I'm not just a creature of government."

Meanwhile, it's sometimes hard to say which of her rivals stands further outside the party's establishment.

When Pennsylvania politicos gathered in New York City for last year's annual Pennsylvania Society weekend of schmoozing, Mr. Fetterman made a fashion statement by wearing a tuxedo-print T-shirt. Mr. Sestak, meanwhile, made a statement by not coming at all. He went to Harrisburg instead, making a public gesture of distributing food and winter clothing to the needy.

Mr. Sestak, a retired admiral and former Congressman who represented southeastern Pennsylvania for two terms, has long fought a protracted guerilla war with Democratic leaders. It's a struggle that began in 2010, when his refused to step aside for Arlen Specter's re-election when the long-time Republican switched parties to run as a Democrat.

"America is not a place where you have kingmakers," Mr. Sestak said in an interview. "The DNA of politics has changed. People no longer trust their leadership."

After narrowly losing to Mr. Toomey in 2010, Mr. Sestak taught college courses at Carnegie Mellon University and elsewhere, while attending hundreds of political events. Such efforts, along with his previous candidacy, have helped fuel his consistent, if not overwhelming, advantage in Democratic polls.

Mr. Sestak is fond of saying, "The military can stop a problem, but we can't fix it": Like the other Democrats, for example, he supports Mr. Obama's controversial nuclear deal with Iran. But though wary of using the military abroad, he cites it as a policy model back home, referencing its approach to everything from taking climate change seriously to offering government supported access to health coverage.

Mr. Fetterman offers his own challenge to politics as usual, starting with his six-foot, eight-inch frame and the tattoo displaying the zip code of Braddock, where he's served as mayor for 11 years.

A native of York whose family owns an insurance firm, Mr. Fetterman found his calling helping poor teens earn their GEDs. He eventually invested his time -- and family money -- in Braddock. The results include an urban farm, a brewpub and and "The Free Store," operated by Mr. Fetterman's wife, which offers donated goods for no price.

"When you look for the differences in all three of us," he asked the WTAE debate audience, "look to the commitment of service."

His Braddock efforts have garnered national media attention, and his forceful support of progressive policies has attracted support. He touts the fact that he presided over same-sex marriages before they were legal in Pennsylvania, and he's been endorsed by the Pennsylvania chapter of NORML, a marijuana-legalization group.

Still, this month nearly two-thirds of voters told Harper Polling they had neither seen nor heard anything about Mr. Fetterman. By the end of 2015, his campaign had just shy of $132,000 in the bank, compared to Mr. Sestak's $2.6 million and Ms. McGinty's $1.2 million. John Baer, a veteran Philadelphia political columnist, recently wrote that "candidates such as Fetterman just might be the wave of the future," but that this year, "Fetterman has virtually no shot."

Days later, the Fetterman campaign boasted of Mr. Fetterman's social-media profile, and predicted his primary bid would drum up $1 million. "Mayor John is catching fire," it assured reporters.

"The political mood is restive," said Pittsburgh NORML director Patrick Nightingale at a fundraiser Mr. Fetterman spoke at last fall. "Anything can happen."

Chris Potter: [email protected]


(c)2016 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer

Source: Equities.com News (April 17, 2016 - 12:21 AM EDT)

News by QuoteMedia

Legal Notice