This is an election season in which the unpopularity of both major party presidential nominees has had an outsize effect on down-ballot races. A contentious debate Monday between incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Democrat Katie McGinty was no exception.
The Pennsylvania race for Senate is one of the tightest in the country, and both candidates were largely on the offensive.
The first question from KDKA-TV moderator Ken Rice was one Toomey has struggled with for months.
“As a leader in your party, yes or no, do you support — as in will you vote for and encourage others to vote for — your party’s presidential nominee,” Rice asked.
Toomey hasn’t officially endorsed GOP nominee Donald Trump. And though he’s criticized the businessman in the past, he also hasn’t disavowed him.
So Toomey gave his standard answer — he’d like to endorse, but he’s still not there yet.
He also responded to McGinty’s criticisms of his in-between position on Trump.
“Because Katie is so extremely partisan, she can’t grasp the idea that somebody might have trouble with a candidate in their own party,” he said. “But I do.”
The candidates attacked each other on state and national issues, including gun control, coal and steel jobs, and Obamacare.
In their most animated moment, they fought over who is more supportive of police officers, both arguing that they’d received more support from police unions and organizations.
However, there was one issue where they appeared unified: Trump’s claims that the election is rigged.
Calling it “maybe one of the most important questions” when asked about the potential for large-scale election fraud, Toomey said, “Our elections may not always be completely perfect, but they are legitimate. They have integrity. And everyone needs to respect the outcome.”
Toomey and McGinty will debate again Oct. 24, this time in Philadelphia.