Candidates blanket Pennsylvania in down-to-wire Senate race

NEW CUMBERLAND (AP) — The candidates in Pennsylvania’s down-to-the-wire U.S. Senate race crossed the state on the last day of campaigning before the election in a contest that could determine whether Republicans keep their majority in the chamber.

The race between Democrat Katie McGinty and Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is now regarded as the nation’s most expensive Senate campaign ever, with spending on it passing $160 million since the beginning of last year.

Toomey flew to campaign stops around the state Monday, while McGinty spoke at a rally at the University of Pittsburgh for party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Toomey, who compiled one of the most conservative voting records in Congress, is one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents. McGinty, who served in Bill Clinton’s White House, was recruited by national Democrats to run against Toomey.

Toomey is a fierce critic of Clinton, but he also has been critical of Trump. He has not campaigned with his party’s presidential nominee, mentioned him in his speeches or said whether he will vote for him. But he also has not entirely rejected Trump, and McGinty has sought to make Toomey’s middle-of-the-road position on Trump a major campaign issue.

Political strategists say the result of the Clinton-Trump contest in Pennsylvania will have the biggest impact on the Toomey-McGinty race, since most people vote along party lines. Clinton has led Trump in most Pennsylvania polls by a low single-digit percentage-point margin.

At a stop Monday in a suburban Harrisburg hotel ballroom, Toomey told a small crowd of GOP loyalists that voting for McGinty is the same thing as voting for Clinton.

“I don’t think we need in Washington another ethically challenged, tax-hiking liberal who doesn’t take our security interests seriously,” Toomey told the crowd. “I don’t think we need a rubber stamp for Hillary Clinton and the left wing of the Democratic Party.”

He called the race “tied” and said the winner “is the side that wants it the most, it’s the side that works the hardest in the final hours.”

At Clinton’s Pittsburgh rally, McGinty called Toomey “spineless” for refusing to disavow Trump.

“Pat Toomey hasn’t manned up to Donald Trump, but I think we know who has manned up to Donald Trump, and her name is Hillary Clinton,” McGinty told the crowd.

Toomey did not mention Trump during his speech Monday, nor did he mention a key vote he made to expand background checks on firearms purchases.

But Toomey has sought to parlay his arm’s-length distance from Trump and his party-crossing vote on background checks into support from moderate voters, particularly in the crucial Philadelphia suburbs.

Toomey is even running a TV ad in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with footage of Obama in 2013 praising Toomey for his work on the background checks legislation, despite the bill’s failure.

Toomey and McGinty also have tangled over middle-class issues, national security, immigration policy and abortion rights. Toomey has painted McGinty as unethically taking advantage of the government-private sector revolving door to enrich herself, while McGinty has countered that Toomey is a Wall Street shill, citing his fight against new banking regulations and a minimum wage tax increase.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters also will decide 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives — 15 are contested — and contests for three statewide offices: attorney general, treasurer and auditor general.

In addition, voters will decide 228 seats in the Pennsylvania Legislature and whether to change the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow more than 1,000 appellate, county and district judges to remain in their jobs until the age of 75. The current mandatory retirement age is 70.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.