Toomey, Trump win Pennsylvania

Donald Trump snatched Pennsylvania away from Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, defying long political odds to become the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since 1988. The fiercely contested presidential race was reflected in close contests up and down the Pennsylvania ballot, with Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey narrowly winning re-election and Democrats sweeping all three statewide row offices.

Propelled by white working-class voters in small towns and rural areas, Trump claimed Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes in a narrow victory over Democrat Clinton. The billionaire businessman’s victory put him on a path to the White House and capped a long, nasty campaign in which both candidates lavished attention on the key battleground.

In the night’s other marquee matchup, Toomey scored a key victory in the Republicans’ drive to maintain Senate control, besting Democratic challenger Katie McGinty. Pennsylvanians also expanded Republican control of the state Legislature, voted in contests for U.S. House, and appeared ready to raise the retirement age for judges.

Election officials reported few problems at the polls amid heavy turnout, with concerns about possible voter intimidation and fraud proving unfounded.

Democrats kept their grip on the scandal-marred Pennsylvania attorney’s general’s office, with Josh Shapiro defeating Republican John Rafferty in the race to succeed Kathleen Kane as the state’s top law enforcement officer. Kane resigned in August after she was convicted of leaking secret investigative information and lying about it in a scheme to smear a rival prosecutor.

Many voters weren’t exactly thrilled with the choice at the top of the ticket. About 1 in 4 said neither Trump nor Clinton was honest, according to an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks. Only 5 percent said both candidates were qualified to be president.

“I’m appalled that this man has made it as far as he’s made,” said Marianne Phillips, a 71-year-old Democrat from Allentown who voted for Clinton.

In Pittsburgh, Jared Reilly, 41, voted for the first time in his life. He cast his ballot for Trump. Clinton “should be buried under the jail,” he said.

With Democrats outnumbering Republicans by more than 900,000 voters, Trump managed to flip the traditionally blue state as he closed in on the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White house.

He campaigned in blue-collar enclaves like Wilkes-Barre and Johnstown — whose economies have struggled since the collapse of heavy industries like coal mining and steel production decades ago —  betting his populist message would motivate voters in small towns and rural areas to get to the polls and counter Clinton’s anticipated strength in voter-rich Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Clinton, likewise, spent plenty of time in Pennsylvania and blanketed the state’s airwaves with ads that used Trump’s own inflammatory and offensive words against him, painting the Republican as dangerously unfit. She had been counting on President Barack Obama’s winning coalition of young voters, liberals, women and minorities to propel her to victory in a state without which no Democrat has won the White House since Harry Truman in 1948.

The economy was Pennsylvania voters’ top concern, according to the exit poll.

Just below Clinton and Trump on the ballot was the hotly contested U.S. Senate race. Toomey was among the most vulnerable Republicans as the GOP sought to hang onto its Senate majority.

The Senate campaign dominated TV screens, becoming the nation’s most expensive race ever with spending in excess of $160 million.

With nearly all ballots counted, Pennsylvanians were narrowly supporting an increase in the mandatory retirement age for more than 1,000 appellate, county and district judges, from 70 to 75. Some voters complained the poll question was confusing, making it seem as if they were being asked to establish a retirement age for the first time instead of to raise it.

The ballot also included statewide races for treasurer and auditor general.

For treasurer, Democrat Joe Torsella downed Republican Otto Voit to fill an office that’s also been marred by corruption. Democrat Rob McCord resigned last year and pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges.

In the race for auditor general, Democrat Eugene DePasquale won re-election against Republican John Brown.

Two races for seats in the U.S. House were notable.

Democrat Dwight Evans will replace the resigned and convicted Chaka Fattah in a heavily Democratic congressional district in Philadelphia. Evans won a special election to fill out Fattah’s term and a full two-year term to follow.

Republican Brian Fitzpatrick won a congressional seat in the Philadelphia suburbs — and will replace his brother, Mike Fitzpatrick, who’s retiring.

Republicans appeared to be on track to increase their large majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.

There were scattered reports of glitches on older electronic machines across the state. The problems involved about 25 machines of nearly 24,000 in use statewide, according to Pennsylvania election officials, who said voters were moved to other booths while the errant machines were quickly recalibrated.

COMMENTS