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Toomey-McGinty race among most hotly contested

Tom Fontaine
ToomeyMcGinty
Tribune-Review
Chester County Democrat Katie McGinty (left) is challenging Republican incumbent Pat Toomey for a U.S. Senate seat.
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Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty listens during a roundtable discussion at the Service Employees International Union’s Healthcare PA office, Downtown, on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.
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JC Schisler | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey visits the Tribune-Review's Pittsburgh office to speak with the news staff on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016.

Political campaigns, parties and outside groups spent nearly $27 million to air 25,000 television ads about Pennsylvania’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race through mid-August, a study shows.

Only Ohio’s Senate race between Republican incumbent Rob Portman and former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland drew more ad spending or air time, according to the analysis by the Connecticut-based Wesleyan Media Project.

“It shows the importance of Pennsylvania’s race,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

Nationally, about $247 million has been spent to air 280,416 ads about U.S. Senate races. The number of ads is down 32 percent from the same point in 2014, when Republicans regained the Senate majority for the first time in eight years.

“With the exception of Ohio, Democrats have been able to air more ads than Republicans in the most competitive Senate races,” said Travis N. Ridout, Wesleyan Media Project co-director.

An average of polling data collected by Chicago-based RealClearPolitics shows Portman holds a 6.4 percentage point lead over Strickland in Ohio, which Madonna said might be dissuading some Democratic donors from contributing.

The Democratic edge elsewhere “may reflect enthusiasm on the part of Democrats who anticipate gains — and perhaps even a takeover — in the Senate,” Ridout said.

In Pennsylvania, where Republican incumbent Pat Toomey of the Lehigh Valley faces Chester County Democrat Katie McGinty, Democrats spent $17.4 million on TV ads through Aug. 18, nearly twice as much as the $9.5 million spent by Republicans. RealClearPolitics shows McGinty leading by an average of 2.6 percentage points.

“There are any number of organizations and groups who have seen what Pat Toomey’s policies do both to the economy and to working families across our state,” McGinty spokesman Sean Coit said. “People are excited to see in Katie a candidate who is out there on the trail every day talking about issues that matter.”

Toomey spokesman Ted Kwong said, “All the money in the world can’t hide Katie McGinty’s liberal record of embracing the dangerous Iran deal, supporting sanctuary city policies that protect dangerous criminals and wanting to hit Pennsylvania families with one of the biggest tax increases in our state’s history.”

McGinty’s campaign spent $5.4 million to air 7,422 ads, ranking as the eighth-highest dollar amount among any single candidate or group nationally, Wesleyan said.

A separate analysis by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics shows the liberal Senate Majority PAC ($3.3 million), Women Vote! ($3.1 million) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($2.6 million) spent the most money to support McGinty or oppose Toomey. The conservative Freedom Partners Action Fund ($5.1 million) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($3.7 million) provided the most support to Toomey.

Toomey’s campaign has more money than McGinty’s, according to federal data. During the year’s second quarter, Toomey raised $3.2 million, spent $4.7 million and had $7.7 million cash on hand; while McGinty raised $3 million, spent $1.5 million and had $2.4 million on hand.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847.

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