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GOP's Toomey Faces Democratic Surge in Pa.

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Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. (AP) 

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Thursday, 12 Nov 2015 08:57 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Barely a week after Pennsylvania Democrats swept all three slots on the State Supreme Court that were on the statewide ballot, speculation throughout the Keystone State is mounting that this might spell danger for Republican Sen. Pat Toomey as he seeks re-election in 2016.

“This outcome spells terrible trouble for Toomey,” Ann Womble, former GOP chairman of Lancaster County, told me soon after final results showed Democrats handily winning control of the state’s seven-judge highest court.

“The labor unions and the trial lawyers targeted the judicial races in a big way. In winning the Supreme Court as well as gaining seats on the Commonwealth and Superior Courts, the Democrats flexed their political muscles for the race against Sen. Toomey.”


In a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by more than 800,000 votes, Toomey is almost always near the top of endangered GOP senators up in 2016.

According to the latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll among likely voters statewide, Toomey edges far-left former 2010 Democratic opponent Rep. Joe Sestak by 41 percent to 38 percent. The same poll showed that when Toomey is pitted against Sestak’s primary opponent, Katie McGinty (formerly top aide to Gov. Tom Wolf), he leads her by 43 percent to 36 percent.

The Democratic wins in the court races along with key contests elsewhere in Pennsylvania has fueled hopes of liberal activists that either Sestak or McGinty can take out Toomey.

Two of the three Democratic Supreme Court candidates were heirs to the two celebrated names in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty is the brother of the politically-wired electricians union boss John “Johnny Dock” Dougherty.

Another Supreme Court winner, Superior Court Judge David Wecht, is the son of the storied forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. A former Allegheny County Coroner and Medical Examiner who was often likened to the fictional medical examiner played by Jack Klugman on TV’s long-running “Quincy” series. The elder Wecht is a frequent fixture on cable TV shows when high-profile deaths occur.

“David is a good guy and a good judge,” attorney and former Republican Rep. Melissa Hart told me, “and he did benefit from his dad.”

Hart is one of several Republicans I spoke to who believes the big defeat in court races was the result of a flaccid and unprepared state GOP organization. As she put it, “Our party is run by dinosaurs. They were caught napping and they didn’t raise enough money.

“The state Republican Party was completely asleep and underfunded,” said Lowman Henry, president of the Pennsylvania-based Lincoln Institute for Public Policy Research and longtime conservative activist, “Basically they brought a knife to a gun fight. At no point did the state party make a serious effort to counter the money that they knew was coming from the unions.”

The Democratic capture of the three Supreme Court seats, Henry believes, “means Democrats will control the court for the next 10 to 20 years, with the likely outcome being the loss of three maybe four Republican congressional seats after the next redistricting.”

Other Pennsylvania Republicans who requested anonymity went further and said that Toomey should demand the resignation of longtime State Party Chairman Bob Gleason before 2016.

As to how Democrats won so big in Pennsylvania this year, G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, told me: “Let's start with the fact the Republicans statewide were absent from the court races. They did almost nothing.

"The Democrats raised three time the money, aired three times the commercials, out organized and out hustled their Republican opponents and the party. The Republicans lost the Philly suburbs, the Lehigh Valley and the turnout in Philadelphia for the mayoral race itself was surprisingly high.”

Regarding the Senate race, Madonna said: “Toomey's biggest fear is a big Democratic sweep nationally next year, and too much straight-party voting. He is a slight favorite at the moment. He will get plenty of help, especially nationally, given the importance of the race. But it could go either way.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.




 

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Barely a week after Pennsylvania Democrats swept all three slots on the State Supreme Court that were on the statewide ballot, speculation throughout the Keystone State is mounting that this might spell danger for Republican Sen. Pat Toomey as he seeks re-election in 2016.
2016 Elections, 2016 GOP
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2015-57-12
Thursday, 12 Nov 2015 08:57 AM
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