PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Katie McGinty won Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday, giving the Democratic establishment its first choice in November's face-off with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
With nearly all of the state's votes recorded McGinty received 42 percent of the vote, giving her a 10 point lead over former congressman Joe Sestak. Coming in third place with just under 20 percent of the vote was John Fetterman, the mayor of a small steel town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
McGinty's comeback victory—she had trailed in the polls until the final week of the campaign—came on the back of endorsements from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who joined McGinty on the campaign trail in Philadelphia on Monday.
McGinty's victory means Sestak will not get a rematch with Toomey, who defeated him in the 2010 Senate election. Sestak had campaigned for the chance to have another shot at Toomey for years but failed to convince Democrats in Washington, D.C., that he had a chance to win the seat.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee rarely takes sides in primary battles, but it spent millions of dollars in support of McGinty prompting complaints from Sestak that party leadership was supporting the weaker candidate.
In a speech to supporters before the winner of the Democratic primary had been announced, Toomey made clear that both McGinty and Sestak had already shown that they were "extreme liberal" candidates.
"During the course of this Democratic primary both of the leading candidates have shown extreme liberal positions across the board," said Toomey to a crowded room of supporters in a Pittsburgh hotel. "Neither one of them can point to a single issue where they seperate themselves from the left-wing orthodoxy of their party. They are in lock-step with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid."
McGinty was serving as chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf (D., Pa.) when she was drafted by party leadership to run for Senate. She had previously run for governor in 2014 but placed fourth place in the Democratic primary.
She got her start in politics as a White House environmental adviser in Bill Clinton's administration and later went on to become secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection.
The line of attack on McGinty from the Toomey campaign will likely focus on her private sector career working both as a lobbyist and also as an executive for major energy corporations. It previewed this attack by paying for a Snapchat filter that labeled her as "Corporate Katie McGinty."
"Democrats have thrown in their lot with a far left machine politician who has an ethics rap sheet a mile long," said Toomey for Senate spokesman Ted Kwong. "Katie McGinty supports every item on her party bosses’ liberal agenda, and is Pennsylvania’s number one abuser of the revolving door between government and corporate boards."
"McGinty makes government work for her, not for us, and that’s not what our state is looking for in a U.S. senator," said Kwong.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee vowed late Tuesday night that it would work educate to Pennsylvania voters on McGinty before November's election.
"In the months leading up to November, voters across the state of Pennsylvania will be thoroughly informed of McGinty’s shortcomings as they compare to the strength and leadership of Senator Toomey," said the NRSC in a statement.
Toomey enters the showdown with McGinty with a significant money advantage.
As McGinty spent money on a final week ad blitz to help her surpass Sestak, Toomey continued to fundraise and added onto a $9.2 million war chest that can be unleashed on a Democratic challenger.
Toomey said in his Tuesday speech that he plans to deliver an "optimistic message" to voters.
"For the next six months, day in and day out, we are going to an optimistic message about economic growth and opportunity and the security that Pennsylvanians deserve," said Toomey. "We are going to deliver that message in every county in every corner of Pennsylvania."