With the help of some big money and a number of high-profile endorsements down the home stretch, Katie McGinty won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
McGinty, a former state environmental secretary, garnered 42 percent of the vote. With 95 percent of precincts reporting as of late Tuesday night, she was up by ten percentage points over Joe Sestak. Towering Braddock, Pa. Mayor John Fetterman got 20 percent of the vote, while a fourth candidate, Joe Vodvarka, got six percent.
Sestak had been the frontrunner for months until national Democratic groups came through with a $4.5 million boost for McGinty. Vice President Joe Biden campaigned on her behalf and President Obama lent his voice for an endorsement and TV ad.
During her victory speech, McGinty went right on the attack, taking the opportunity to try to link incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“We cannot afford to sit back,” she said, “Not when that Trump-Toomey ticket is so eager to promote a brand of bigotry and hatred, not in keeping with this country’s great traditions, and so eager to reverse the progress that we have made with President Obama and Vice-President Biden.”
McGinty’s victory means the battle is over for Sestak, a retired Navy Admiral and former two-term Congressman.
While she gave her victory speech at the Stagehands Union hall in Philadelphia surrounded by throngs of supporters and political insiders, Sestak ended the race with about two-dozen supporters in the rain-soaked parking lot of his campaign headquarters in Media, Delaware County.
Sestak ran for this seat in 2010 and beat Arlen Specter who had switched parties from Republican to Democrat with the blessing of party leaders. However, he lost to Toomey in the general election and has been estranged from the Democratic establishment ever since.
Sestak launched his campaign well-ahead of his competitors back in March 2015 with a 422-mile walk across the state of Pennsylvania.
“Anyone who doesn’t think Americans are great should have had that walk with me,” he said.
Without giving any hints about his political future, Sestak bowed out of the race on a positive note. He said voters he met on the walk want to elect leaders they can hold accountable, regardless of party affiliation.
“I am convinced that the leadership that we need is going to arise to restore that trust to where once again they actually believe that a government of the people can be for the people and be willing to be held accountable,” he said.
What comes next for Sestak remains unclear. The admiral retreated to a private room in his campaign headquarters following his speech and did not take questions from the press.
Fetterman — who raised little money, but garnered a lot of media attention — told supporters at a brewery in Braddock that although his campaign is over, he will remain a “progressive standard-bearer” in Pennsylvania.
“We want everybody to remember that black lives matter,” he said, “That we want to remember that everyone deserves, if you work full-time, to have a living wage. They should be able to live with dignity. We want to remember that we have rights for the LGBT and transgender community.”
McGinty will face Toomey in the general election for the chance to be the first female member of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation.
Noah Brode contributed reporting.