GOP Senator Facing Close Reelection

By John Celock

A new poll Wednesday confirmed that U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) is likely to face a tough road in his reelection campaign next year.

A Public Policy Polling poll showed that Toomey narrowly leads his 2010 Democratic opponent in the contest and maintains a narrow lead over a former Pennsylvania governor who is not running. The poll does show that Toomey would have a better lead over four lesser known Democrats who have shown some interest in making the Senate run.

The poll shows that Toomey is leading former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, his 2010 Democratic opponent 42 percent to 38 percent. Toomey had defeated Sestak by two percentage points in the 2010 race. Sestak is the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but national Democratic leaders have indicated that they would prefer another candidate to take on Toomey in the general election. The poll showed that 54 percent of those surveyed do not have an opinion of Sestak, a former Navy rear admiral.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who is challenging Sestak in the Democratic primary, trails Toomey in a match up 44 percent to 34 percent. The poll showed that Pawlowski, has a 28 percent statewide name recognition. Pawlowski briefly sought the 2014 Democratic nomination for governor.

The poll showed that Toomey would lead both former U.S. Rep. Chris Carney and state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) by nine points and would beat Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams by 11 points. Carney, Hughes and Williams have all expressed interest in potentially entering the race.

The poll did look at former Gov. Ed Rendell’s (D) chances in a race against Toomey, with the Republican defeating Rendell 46 percent to 41 percent in the hypothetical matchup. Rendell has not expressed interest in seeking a Senate seat next year. Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor and Democratic National Committee chairman, left the governor’s mansion in 2011 after eight years in office.

Democrats have been searching for an alternative to Sestak, who has long not been popular with party leaders. In 2010, Sestak defeated then U.S. Sen. Arlen Spector in the Democratic primary. It was Spector’s first Democratic primary after he switched to the party after five terms in the Senate.

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro (D) announced Tuesday that he would not enter the Senate contest and instead seek a second term in county government this year. Shapiro, a former state legislator, is long viewed as a rising star in Pennsylvania politics and had been courted by national Democrats to challenge Toomey.

Morning Call reported that Shapiro, 41, is considering a bid next year for state attorney general. A Shapiro bid for attorney general would likely set up a primary against embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D). Kane is facing potential criminal charges for leaked grand jury information. Kane, a former prosecutor from Scranton, had been considered a rising star following her 2012 election, including potentially challenging Toomey in 2016.

Shapiro is the first Democrat to lead Montgomery County’s government and has been mentioned for a variety of higher offices including Congress, lieutenant governor and governor, in addition to the Senate and attorney general races.