UPDATE 1:00 A.M. NOVEMBER 3rd -- Republican Pat Toomey scored a narrow victory over Democrat Joe Sestak to win the U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania. Percentage wise it was as close as it gets, 51% to 49%.
It wasn't until the early morning hours that Sestak called Toomey to concede. Toomey will now take the place of longtime U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who Sestak defeated in the primaries. Specter drew nationwide attention for switching parties before the primary.
NOVEMBER 1 -- Politically, Pennsylvania is becoming a demographic bridge between Midwestern and Northeastern states. It's been labeled as a swing state for years now, and an important one when it comes to power in Congress. And when it comes to electing a president, only four states have more electoral votes. That's why the race for the U.S. Senate seat between Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak is getting so much attention.
We begin with Sestak. He's in the middle of a hostile electoral climate for Democrats. Despite that obstacle, polls show he's been closing the gap on his opponent. We recently caught up with the current congressman who spent just as much time on the attack as he did offering up reasons why he should win.
As the campaign for senator enters its final days, Congressman Joe Sestak thinks it's going to come down to just one thing -- the economy. At a campaign stop near Harrisburg earlier this month, Sestak told voters that creating jobs will always be the main crux of his message. "There's a different approach between Congressman Toomey and what I want to do. I'm for small businesses that create 80-percent of all jobs right here in America," he said.
In contrast Sestak says his opponent, Pat Toomey, is more for big business and big corporations. Sestak claims Pennsylvania has lost 98,000 jobs in the last eight years because of the growing trade deficit with china and he blames, in part, his opponent. "He actually voted that if you're a large corporation, you invest in a factory in China, you're profits are no longer taxed if you keep investing in China and send jobs overseas," Sestak says.
Over the last few months the race between Sestak and Toomey has become increasingly negative. Sestak says many of his opponent's TV ads are false or misleading. "We cannot have a Wall Street senator. We just can't. He's that extreme. We have to have someone who will work across the isle in a practical way," says Sestak.
He says he's never waivered in his support for the $787-billion economic stimulus act and has even said he would have supported spending more. If elected, Sestak says he'll work to make college more affordable for students. On the issue of social security he says he does not support privatization like his opponent. And when asked about drilling in the Marcellus Shale, Sestak says he recognizes the economic benefits but says it must be done in a responsible way. "Seven counties have already had their drinking water already contaminated and we should ensure that we do drill...but we do it well...and safety so we don't contaminate it," Sestak says.
Former President Bill Clinton has held several rallies on his behalf and President Obama has even stopped for him in Philly. Sestak says that won't make him a rubber stamp for the Democrats though. "I bucked my party when they were wrong -- from the President on down. I'll always be an independent representative of the working families of Pennsylvania....but I'll work with anyone to help the working families. Congressman Toomey will only work with corporations," he says.
After serving 31-years in the Navy where he got the rank of Three-Star Admiral, Sestak says he's now ready to lead in a new way -- in the United States Senate. "Congressman Mike Doyle once said, I'm a crappy politician...(laughs)...I am. I don't want to be a politician. I want to be a public servant that listens, but does the right thing," he says.
Now for more on the man who is challenging Sestak, Pat Toomey. The open senate seat has been a hotbed for political war between the two candidates, and for his second run for the U.S. Senate seat, Pat Toomey is in an all out political fight.
Toomey's political ties to Pennsylvania have come full circle. In 2004, Toomey ran for Republican spot on the ballot for the senate seat that was then filled by Senior Senator Arlen Specter.
Just under 5,000 votes kept Toomey from being on the general ballot. But fast forward to November of 2009 when Toomey once again formally filed paperwork to run for U.S. Senate. This time he wasn't up against the established Specter, who later switched parties, eventually being replaced on the ballot by Joe Sestak.
Toomey continues to base his campaign on the precedent of more jobs, less government. "What's important to me in Pennsylvania is to recognize, we are an industrial state, we are a manufacturing state, we are an energy state, and we need policies that are good for those businesses and those workers."
When it comes to money, Toomey's campaign has out-fundraised Sestak every step of the way. And the polls have been good to Toomey, at least up until recently when things have tightened. The campaign has stayed in national news for months, particularly for our state being a Bellwether of sorts for what happens on the west coast.
These two candidates also have the reputation of the candidates labeling each other as party-extremists. National media has touted the fact that Toomey has spent 10 years in Congress and has never been labeled a Washington insider and yet Sestak has spent just 3 years and people are calling him a Washington insider."
Toomey touts his own history of taking on his own party. "And I even took to the house floor, led what amounts to a house equivalent of a filibuster when Republicans were introducing spending bills designed to bust the budget," he says.
Pat Toomey is using his experience of running a restaurant that started in Allentown that later branched out to other locations to reach the small business owners.
And the late October debate in Philadelphia proved to be aggressive right out of the gate when asked about taxpayer funded abortions.
Sestak: "I voted against taxpayers funding it."
Toomey: "You did not, Joe."
Sestak: "Please don't interrupt me."
Toomey: "Well when you're being dishonest I'm going to call you on it."