Democrat Leads In Pennsylvania Senate Race

By John Celock

The Democratic road to a Senate majority could run through Pennsylvania, with the Democratic challenger holding a narrow lead over the GOP incumbent.

A Monmouth University Poll released Wednesday shows that Democratic Katie McGinty, a former state environmental protection secretary, leading U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) 47 percent to 44 percent. The Pennsylvania Senate race has been one of the most competitive this cycle, with Democrats trying to claim the only statewide office held by a Republican.

McGinty held a narrow lead over the summer with Toomey closing the gap last month before the Democrat reclaimed a narrow lead. The poll showed that McGinty is easily leading in the southeast part of Pennsylvania – home to Philadelphia and the Philadelphia suburbs – with a 57 percent to 34 percent. Toomey leads McGinty in the eastern and central parts of the state – home to Allentown, Scranton and rural areas dominated by fracking – 54 percent to 40 percent. Toomey has taken a 48 percent to 40 percent lead in the western part of the state – home to Pittsburgh and Erie.

The poll comes at the same time as a Monmouth University Poll showing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leading Republican opponent Donald Trump in the state 48 percent to 44 percent. The presidential poll also shows Clinton’s hopes of a win in Pennsylvania connected to her showing in Philadelphia and the moderate suburbs that surround Philadelphia.

Trump has increased his presence in Pennsylvania, with his daughter, Tiffany, spending Wednesday campaigning in Philadelphia and several suburban counties. Trump’s wife, Melania, is scheduled to do a rare solo campaign event on Thursday in the Philadelphia suburb of Berwyn.

Toomey, a former three-term congressman, won the Senate seat in 2010, defeating then U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak. Sestak had unseated then Sen. Arlen Spector, a Republican turned Democrat, in the Democratic primary. Toomey had unsuccessfully challenged Spector in the 2004 GOP primary.

McGinty entered the race last year after a six-month stint as chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf (D). McGinty had served as the state’s environmental protection secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and had served in the Clinton Administration as chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Equality. She finished fourth in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor.