Attack Ads Already Flying in Hotly Contested Pennsylvania Senate Race

Just a week after the primaries, outside groups are already attacking Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty.

McGinty / Toomey attack ads

It’s been just a week since the Pennsylvania primary election, but the general election is ramping into high gear — at least in the race for the state’s junior senate seat. Per the Associated Press, “tens of millions of dollars” are expected to be spent by outside groups in the race for the Pennsylvania Senate seat.

Katie McGinty, the Democratic establishment-backed candidate, easily bested Joe Sestak and John Fetterman for the Democratic nomination. Incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey was unopposed in the Republican primary; he beat Sestak, 51-49 percent, in the 2010 Senate election. This race is also expected to be close.

The general election began even on primary election night, when Friends of Pat Toomey paid for a Snapchat filter attacking Katie McGinty at McGinty’s election-night party. Meanwhile, several outside groups have already begun airing attack ads.

The Club for Growth, a conservative group that pushes tax cuts and reduced government spending, is airing ads attacking McGinty. This one has been airing during Phillies games in the area. Toomey, a U.S. Congressman for three terms in the late ’90s and early 2000s, was president of the Club for Growth between 2005 and 2009.

McGinty has never held elected office. The ad, which helpfully notes it is an “actor portrayal” of McGinty, accuses her of funneling grants to her husband. The website Blue Nation Review calls the ad “sexist.”

McGinty’s camp has released a detailed response to the ad. The campaign says much of the work going to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (where Karl Hausker works as a consultant on several projects) began under Republican administrations. The campaign also says McGinty has never been a lobbyist, and that several newspaper editorials called the “largest tax increase” claim “deceptive.”

“McGinty’s fight for the middle class is resonating across the state and it’s no wonder that Pat Toomey’s allies are up with a baseless attack to distract from Toomey’s hurtful record against Pennsylvanians,” Sabrina Singh, McGinty’s communications director, said. “It is hard to take an ad like this seriously but what is serious is Pat Toomey’s commitment to putting Wall Street and special interests ahead of Pennsylvanians.”

Ah, yes, Wall Street. That’s the subject of an ad launched by the AFSCME PEOPLE Independent Expenditure, an arm of the union, against Toomey. It notes his long record as an investment banker and his support of loosening government restrictions that caused the financial crisis.

The Toomey camp responded with a long press release responding to the claims in the ad. The campaign says Toomey opposed the Wall Street bailout and has introduced legislation to end “too big to fail” banks. Toomey has also worked with Democratic senators to sponsor legislation ending subsidies for the sugar and corn industries, his campaign says.

“Pat Toomey is widely known for his longtime efforts to fight corporate cronyism and stop government handouts to special interest groups,” Toomey for Senate spokesman Ted Kwong said. “Katie McGinty has built her entire career on doing just the opposite, using her posts in government to enrich herself on corporate boards and her friends with taxpayer dollars.”

It’s only May. Get ready for more of this all the way to November.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.