Toomey-McGinty: a substantive brawl

    It won’t be spoofed on Saturday Night Live, but the level of animosity at the Toomey-McGinty U.S. Senate faceoff at Temple University Monday night had to remind you of the presidential debates.

    Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty traded plenty of hard shots in a one-hour televised debate, mixing attacks on each other’s character and motives with sharp policy critiques.

    Toomey charged McGinty had lied about being the first in her family to go to college (she clarified the statement), and about income she’d gotten from firms she regulated in state government.

    McGinty painted Toomey as heartless tool of corporations who would do nothing to help middle class families and would take abortion rights away from women.

    6ABC anchor Jim Gardner moderated the debate, which was hosted by Temple and co-sponsored by League of Women Voters Citizen Education Fund.

    The T question

    Gardner peppered Toomey with questions about his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Toomey has criticized Trump but wouldn’t rule out voting for him or supporting him.

    Gardner asked Toomey if he thought his constituents deserved a clear answer.

    “I don’t think my constituents care that much how one person is going to vote. They’re going to make their own decision,” Toomey said. “I think they care much more about whether I’ve got policies that are going to grow this economy.”

    McGinty said Toomey’s playing a game with voters.

    “In Philadelphia, the senator will say he has differences and disagreements with Donald Trump,” McGinty said. “But in other parts of the state, what we hear from the senator is how excited he will be to confirm President Trump’s court nominee.”

    “Someone should tell Katie this is televised statewide,” Toomey said, provoking laughter his partisans in the audience.

    Sharp differences

    There were moments when clear policy differences emerged.

    Toomey said he favored opportunities for women but voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act because it would provoke lawsuits and be “a boondoggle for the trial lawyers and without leading to real progress.”

    McGinty favored the act and increasing the minimum wage.

    The two also differed about the Black Lives Matter movement, when Gardner asked if they thought there is institutional racism among police departments.

    “I am happy to say ‘black lives matter,’” McGinty said, “because from where I stand, when we recognize the dignity of any person we’re all lifted up, and when any person is denied dignity we’re taken down.”

    Toomey said he thinks individual cases of misconduct should be investigated, but “the problem with the Black Lives matter Movement and Katie McGinty propagating this is [that] just that phrase itself is meant to impugn the integrity of the police by implying that they don’t think black lives do matter.”

    Some in the audience booed the remark.

    Foreclosure flap

    A confusing set of charges and counter-charges arose when McGinty said a bank Toomey is part owner of had engaged in predatory practices.

    She said that bank engaged in predatory forecloses of business owners who had loans with an unusual provision for a procedure called “confession of judgment,” which speeds foreclosure and leaves the borrower without certain rights.

    Toomey responded by saying McGinty had been forced to take down an inaccurate ad making the claim. Actually the ad was by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, though Toomey charged after the debate that its content was drawn straight from McGinty’s campaign material.

    In the debate, Toomey also charged that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had “used the exact same device” in its financial contracts when McGinty headed the agency.

    McGinty refused to address that claim in a post-debate news conference.

    A blank 2008 DEP form provided by the Toomey campaign appears to indicate that the “confession of judgment” provision was included in at least one kind of contract related to the permitting of waste management facilities, but it’s not clear if those facilities experienced foreclosure.

    Yes, it’s confusing.

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