McGinty wouldn’t be a shoo-in over Sestak in Pa. Senate primary

     Katie McGinty, who recently stepped down as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff, may step up as a U.S. Senate candidate.  (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Katie McGinty, who recently stepped down as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff, may step up as a U.S. Senate candidate. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    It seems Pennsylvania Democrats will be treated to a U.S. Senate primary fight next spring after all.

    Katie McGinty, who resigned as Governor Tom Wolf’s chief of staff last week, is expected to enter the race soon against former Delaware County Congressman Joe Sestak.

    Leading Democrats are looking for an alternative to Sestak, who lost narrowly to Republican Pat Toomey in 2010, but tends to buck party leaders. McGinty should make them happy on that front, but there’s no consensus among those I talk to that she’ll be able to beat Sestak.

    On the plus side, she somehow emerged as a real comer after last year’s gubernatorial primary, even though she finished dead last.

    “It’s rare when you run a race and lose and end up more popular than when you started, and that was certainly the case with Katie McGinty,” said Franklin and Marshall College analyst Terry Madonna.

    McGinty stayed positive and performed well in debates during the gubernatorial primary. Even with party support, though,  she won’t have a walk to the nomination.

    Sestak, who formerly represented the Seventh District in Congress, is well known from his primary and general election campaigns last time, and he has a $2.1 million dollar war chest. And he’s absolutely relentless on the campaign trail. It’s hard to imagine him being out-worked.

    His maverick image sometimes grates on party leaders, but it has appeal among voters. McGinty figures to get a flood of endorsements from elected officials, labor unions and interest groups who will help with organization and money. And since national Democratic leaders urged her to run, she could get checks from all over the country.

    If both candidates raise enough for major media campaigns, it could come down to who’s more likable.

    One other thought: McGinty in from Wayne, and it’s possible with two Democrats from the Philadelphia area running, a western Pennsylvanian could decide to get in. It’s early yet.

    Meanwhile Toomey and his Republican friends are gearing up to defend the seat. Toomey’s campaign committee had $8.3 million on hand as of June 30.

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