The most expensive Senate race in the country is happening in Pennsylvania, and it will make one of its final stops at the Temple Performing Arts Center next Monday.
Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey will debate Katie McGinty, the Democratic nominee, at 7 p.m. in TPAC. 6ABC’s Jim Gardner will moderate the debate.
As of Oct. 17, more than $92 million has been spent by the candidates and outside sources, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in elections. The next most expensive Senate race, in New Hampshire, has a price tag of more than $77 million so far.
This race, along with other highly contested races, can change which party controls Congress. Toomey and McGinty are currently neck-and-neck according to the most recent poll, from Bloomberg on Oct. 13. According to the poll, McGinty leads with 47 percentage points and Toomey trails by two, with 45 percentage points.
Michael Hagen, a political science professor studying this election, said it’s unusual for Senate races to be so close after an eight-year president, because often more people of the opposite party are elected.
But that’s for a normal election cycle, he said. Because of the nature of the presidential election between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, there has been less media coverage devoted to legislative elections.
“It’s a race that wouldn’t be close without Donald Trump,” Hagen said.
“It’s conceivable that we could have a Republican president and a Republican House [of Representatives],” he added. “It’s also conceivable we could have a Democratic president and a Democratic House.”
“Those two outcomes would produce very different federal government policies over the next four years and take the country in very different directions at a time where there’s a lot of concern of the direction of the country,” Hagen said.
Over the next six years, hot-button issues, like America’s relationship with Russia, climate change and the country’s healthcare system are all due to be voted on in Congress, Hagen said.
“The votes we cast here in Pennsylvania will have a very big impact on how the government addresses those issues,” Hagen added.
There are weaknesses in both candidates, he said. McGinty is not very well-known throughout the state and while Toomey has been in office, he has voted conservatively for economic and social issues that may not align with all Pennsylvania voters.
“McGinty has been able to keep it closer because partly the national mood has been less supportive of Republicans than it otherwise would be,” Hagen added.
Students in Temple College Republicans and Temple College Democrats plan to attend Monday’s debate to support the candidate of their respective parties.
Thomas Caffrey, who works on the McGinty campaign as an intern and is president of Temple College Democrats, said his organization will be working on getting out the vote for the Nov. 8 election.
Before the deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania passed last week, Temple College Democrats had been focused on registering as many people as they could. The focus now turns to making sure people go and vote for McGinty and Clinton, he said.
The group will canvass with the McGinty and Clinton campaigns in North Philadelphia in the coming weeks.
Temple College Republicans have done similar work for the Toomey campaign. Members have made calls for Toomey and Republican nominee Brian Fitzpatrick who is running for Representative of Pennsylvania’s 8th legislative district, said Austin Severns, the chairman of Temple College Republicans.
Most of the focus of conversations for Temple College Republicans are on the presidential debate Severns said, but members are optimistic about Toomey beating McGinty in November.
The debate, sponsored by 6ABC and the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, will be broadcasted live and is the last debate between the candidates before the election.
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.