The final debate between Sen. Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty at Temple Performing Arts Center Monday captured the energy of most other national and state elections currently underway.
The candidates for the United States Senate clashed on the debate stage about issues like gun violence, the economy, systemic racism and women’s rights. Philadelphia residents and about 150 Temple students were in attendance.
While the candidates debated, Toomey twice attempted to deny McGinty’s statements by calling them “another one of those ‘brother didn’t go to college’ stories” — referring to McGinty’s claim that she was the first person in her family to go to college. Politifact reported in June that her brother attended La Salle University in the 1970s.
McGinty slammed Toomey in return for an alleged false advertisement his campaign ran about her.
Outside of TPAC before the debate, Planned Parenthood hosted a protest denouncing Toomey. Attendees held cardboard cutouts of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s face and chanted things like “Fire Toomey.” Toomey supporters also gathered before the debate, silently holding signs in support of the incumbent senator.
Morgan Lepre, a freshman legal studies and political science major who’s planning to vote for Toomey, was broadcasted live on 6ABC when she asked the candidates how they would provide relief for college debt and student loans.
“They were going around asking students if they wanted to ask a question,” Lepre said. “They said it was for the candidates, but I had no idea it would be broadcasted live. I was shocked.”
“It was really cool because I went up to Toomey after to shake his hand, and he recognized me,” she added.
McGinty told the audience that there are “things we can do right now, today, to bring down the cost of college.”
McGinty advocated for lower interest rates on student loans and affordable access to community college. She also stressed the importance of job training and apprenticeship programs for students who don’t choose a four-year university.
Toomey countered with the recommendation that students fund their education the same way he did: by working through college and earning Pell Grants.
“Students need to bear some of the burden for their education,” Toomey said.
Debate moderator and 6ABC anchor Jim Gardner also asked Toomey about his lack of endorsement of Trump, who Toomey said was “badly flawed.” However, Toomey said he was in favor of Trump’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I’ve criticized him repeatedly,” Toomey told the audience. “He’s said some terrible things.”
Austin Severns, the chairman of Temple College Republicans, said he doesn’t see a problem with Toomey’s lack of endorsement for the presidential candidate.
“You shouldn’t expect a politician running for reelection to take a stance on Donald Trump,” said Severns, a junior supply chain management major. “[Trump] has strong points on general issues, but he has super weak points in terms of sentiment from the American people.”
Lepre said she’s worried about party unity, and “not having Hillary Clinton in the White House should be a greater priority” for Toomey.
McGinty, who would be the first female senator from Pennsylvania if elected, told the audience she supported equal pay and abortion rights. She knocked her opponent, saying he would punish women who got abortions.
“Katie McGinty stands up for what people believe in,” said Thomas Caffrey, president of Temple College Democrats. “There are a large number of issues where you can tell she listens to her three young daughters.”
But Toomey never actually advocated for punishment.
“There are good people on both sides of this issue,” Toomey told the audience. He added that he is pro-life, except in “particularly excruciating circumstances” like rape or the danger of a mother’s life.
Caffrey volunteered at the debate, and was standing backstage when the two candidates walked out to begin.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Caffrey, a junior strategic communication and political science major. “[Temple is] able and capable of holding something like this. It’s one of the most largely watched debates in the country, and that speaks to the capacity and potential Temple has.”
Michaela Winberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org @mwinberg_.