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The procrastinator’s guide to the 2016 Pennsylvania General Election

Where’s your polling place? Who’s running for auditor general? What’s that ballot question about? We have you covered.

The election season that everybody wants to end is almost over. But in case you haven’t been paying enough attention to the races, especially those not involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, we have you covered, from US Senator to State Treasurer to Attorney General and everything in between.   

Here is the Procrastinator’s Guide to the 2016 General Election.

Your polling place

Find it here. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Unless it’s your first time voting at a particular division, you do NOT need to show any identification. As always if you see anything fishy at your polling station or having any voting-related questions, contact the Committee of Seventy or the City Commissioners... not, despite that meme that’s floating around, the FBI.

President

For a while, it looked like Pennsylvania was going to be in play for this election, with a CNN poll showing Clinton with a one-point lead in late September. But that lead has been extended over the last several weeks, and it now appears Clinton should win comfortably. Five Thirty Eight gives her an 88 percent chance of winning the state and keeping Pennsylvania blue yet again.

Hillary Clinton, Democrat

Hillary Clinton Temple
Screenshot from Clinton's Temple speech

Pennsylvania focus: Clinton has been to Pennsylvania a few times during her campaign, notably for the Democratic National Convention (duh). Over the last several weeks, though, she’s largely had a team of celebrities and other politicians, such as Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Joe Biden, campaign in Philadelphia and beyond for her.   

PolitiFact Intel: About half of Clinton’s statements have been found to be true or mostly true.

Donald Trump, Republican

Donald Trump speaks about defense spending, veterans issues and the military during a campaign stop at the Union League in Philadelphia.

Donald Trump speaks about defense spending, veterans issues and the military during a campaign stop at the Union League in Philadelphia.

Screenshot via YouTube live stream

Pennsylvania focus: Trump has come to Pennsylvania many times and most often talked about restoring manufacturing jobs. He’s brought up layoffs at Northeast Philly’s Cardone Industries and just last week said he wanted to bring shipbuilding back to the Navy Yard.  

PolitiFact Intel: About 15 percent of Trump’s statements have been found to be true or mostly true.

U.S. Senate

This is the big one. Victory here is crucial for the Republicans if they want to keep control of the Senate and for the Democrats if they want to regain it.

Nobody knows how the race is going to turn out, either. Pretty much every poll since the primary has put the lead of McGinty or Toomey within the margin of error. According to Five Thirty Eight’s polls only forecast, this race is the third-closest in the country. The website also gives McGinty a slightly higher chance of winning than Toomey. Given the uncertainty of the outcome and the importance of the seat, outside spending on this race could top $120 million, setting a record.     

Katie McGinty

PA Senate candidate Katie McGinty speaks to the DNC crowd.

PA Senate candidate Katie McGinty speaks to the DNC crowd.

Live stream screenshot

Background: Her previous jobs include Department of Environmental Protection Secretary under Ed Rendell, lead of the White House Council on Environmental Quality under Bill Clinton and, most recently, a short stint as Governor Tom Wolf’s chief of staff. She also worked or advised for NRG Energy, Iberdrola and other energy companies. McGinty has never served in elected office.

The gist: McGinty toppled 2010 Senate candidate Joe Sestak and Bernie bro favorite John Fetterman in the primary, in which she gained major support from the Democratic and party luminaries like Barack Obama and Ed Rendell. As Senator, she wants to close what she deems unfair tax loopholes, expand tax credits for middle class families so they can better afford college and grant tax incentives to increase use of green energy.

She’s also been a fixture at Clinton rallies, often imploring voters to shatter two glass ceilings by electing Clinton President and her Senator. McGinty would be the first female Senator of Pennsylvania.  

Campaign highlight: McGinty’s speech at the Democratic National Convention was nearly universally panned. But the next day she got another opportunity. McGinty spoke ahead of Clinton at Temple and redeemed herself.  

Campaign lowlight: McGinty got caught in a campaign lie in May that we rated as Pants On Fire. In speeches, on Twitter and on her own website, McGinty and her team has claimed she was the first person in her family to attend college. Turns out she wasn’t. Her brother John McGinty attended the Community College of Philadelphia and then La Salle, graduating from the four-year school in 1973. McGinty graduated from St. Joseph’s in 1985.    

Learn more: Read our McGinty profile, see what she considers the biggest issues and read our fact-checks of her. 

Pat Toomey

Sen. Pat Toomey

Sen. Pat Toomey

Wikimedia Commons

Background: Toomey has been Pennsylvania’s Senator since 2010, when he narrowly defeated Sestak in the general election. He ran unchallenged in this spring’s Primary. Before the Senate, he worked as a US Congressman and an investment banker.  

The gist: Toomey came into office riding the Tea Party wave and largely stayed true to traditionally conservative stances with a few notable exceptions, such as on gun control. As one would predict given his background as an investment banker, he’s placed much of his focus on money and the economy. Toomey serves on the Financial, Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Budget committees. Arguably his biggest accomplishment as Senator was the JOBS Act. He helped prepare this 2012 bill that was designed to make it easier for small businesses to get funding. He has also introduced an Earmark Elimination Act multiple times but it has never passed.   

Toomey is pro-life (and voted to defund Planned Parenthood), wants to overhaul Obamacare, supports lowering taxes and was vocal in criticizing the nuclear deal with Iran. Also: He has yet to say whether he’ll vote for Trump. More on that in the lowlights.

Campaign highlight: Toomey gained major bipartisan cred when former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ anti-gun violence PAC endorsed him, crediting him for opposing the gun lobby as lawmakers tried to pursue tighter gun regulations in the wake of Sandy Hook.   

Campaign lowlight: Rather than be remembered for what he’s done the past six years, Toomey has largely had to answer questions the last several weeks about why he hasn’t made explicit his thoughts on Trump. Even Jimmy Kimmel made fun of him. And Clinton chose him as the first down-ballot candidate she targeted in a speech, referring to him as a “coward.” Toomey is the only sitting Republican Senator up for re-election who has not said whether he/she endorses Trump.  

Learn more: Find out more specifics about his stances and plans and see our fact-checks of Toomey.  

Attorney General

Not long after the sentencing of Kathleen Kane you get to pick the next full-time AG. Fun!

Josh Shapiro and John Rafferty, both MontCo natives, have run campaigns trying to distance themselves as far away as possible from the distractions that have enveloped the AG’s office, promising big changes.

There haven’t been any polls on this race so it’s hard to tell who’s winning. Kane was the first Democrat to win Attorney General, so in some ways the Republican Rafferty has a built-in advantage. But Shapiro is hardly a normal Democrat. In the spring he had endorsements from prominent national Dems like Obama.   

John Rafferty, Republican

Attorney General candidate John Rafferty

Attorney General candidate John Rafferty

www.raffertyforag.com

Background: State Senator since 2008, representing parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties. He’s chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Rafferty is a Temple law grad who used to work as a Deputy Attorney General.  

The gist: Rafferty puts “restoring integrity” to the office as his first priority if he gets elected. After that: increasing audits of the Megan’s Law website that tracks child abuse, creating a school safety task force and heroin “strike force.” One of his big sticking points is his pledge that he will not run for higher office. This is clearly an attempted shot at Shapiro. Though Shapiro and his campaign have said he’ll be around for at least one term, he’s widely considered to be an up-and-coming politician with interests beyond the AG’s office.

Key endorsements: Former governor Tom Ridge, Montgomery County FOP, Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.     

Learn more: Read about his plans if he gets elected.

Josh Shapiro, Democrat

Montgomery County Comissioner Josh Shapiro speaking at the Manayunk Bridge Trail groundbreaking in October 2014.

Montgomery County Comissioner Josh Shapiro speaking at the Manayunk Bridge Trail groundbreaking in October 2014.

Montgomery County Planning Commission on Flickr

Background: Shapiro was a state representative in Montgomery County from 2005 to 2012 and has been a Montgomery County Commissioner since then. He has no experience as a prosecutor.

The gist: Shapiro has talked of cutting down on fraud and better regulation the fracking industry. Another of his central messages has been the heroin epidemic. He says he will get more overdose reversal drugs in the hands of first responders and better prosecute drug traffickers.   

Key endorsements: Obama, Governor Tom Wolf, Philadelphia FOP, CeaseFire PA

Learn more: Check out this Philly Mag profile and his agenda.

Auditor General

The auditor general is basically tasked with making sure Pennsylvania spends its money legally and wisely. Eugene DePasquale is running for his second term against Republican John Brown as well as Green party candidate John Sweeney and Libertarian Roy Minet.

John Brown, Republican

John Brown
John Brown/Facebook

Background: Brown is currently the Northampton County executive, meaning he oversees many governmental departments across this Lehigh Valley county.

The gist: Brown is short on specifics with his goals for the office. He talks about doing what the auditor general is essentially supposed to do: streamline Pennsylvania government and cut down waste. Brown has criticized DePasquale for being too cozy with Governor Tom Wolf and has played up his background in the private business sector.

Learn more: Read his interview with the Wilkes-Barre Citizen Voice.

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat

Auditor General Eugene Depasquale

Auditor General Eugene Depasquale

Screenshot via YouTube

Background: DePasquale was elected auditor general in 2012, defeating John Maher by about three percentage points. He previously served York County as a state rep and is originally from Pittsburgh.  

The gist: One of DePasquale’s favorite targets has been Pennsylvania charter schools. His work auditing them even caught the attention of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” Looking ahead, DePasquale wants to find ways to improve state infrastructure and better fund education and public safety.

Bottom line is DePasquale is the heavy favorite. Since 1969, all but one auditor general has been re-elected, and nine of the last 10 auditor generals have been Democrats.  

Learn more: Watch the John Oliver clip and check out the latest news from his office’s audits.

State Treasurer

Here’s the other race where Pennsylvania will get an official replacement for a convicted politician. Former Treasurer Rob McCord pleaded guilty to extortion and even wore a wire.

In this race, Libertarian James Babb and Green Party candidate Kristin Combs join against Democrat Joe Torsella and Republican Otto Voit.

Joe Torsella, Democrat

Torsella
Joe Torsella/Facebook

Background: Torsella is originally from the Philly ‘burbs and has held several key positions in the city, including Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning under Ed Rendell and CEO of the Constitution Center. He was also in charge of promoting Philadelphia for the 2016 Olympics and was an Ambassador to the UN from 2011 to 2014. He hasn’t previously held elected office.

The gist: Torsella is hoping the third time he runs for major office is the charm. He lost a race for US Congress to Allyson Schwartz in 2004 and in 2010 was going to challenge for US Senate until Arlen Specter switched parties. His promise if he’s elected Treasurer is to make Pennsylvania more transparent in its financial dealings. He also favors creating universal college savings accounts for Pennsylvanians and letting private employees create their own retirement accounts through auto payroll deductions.

Key endorsements: Michael Bloomberg,

Learn more: Read about his ideas for the office.  

Otto Voit

Otto Voit
Otto Voit/Facebook

Background: Voit has no political experience and has worked as president of the Keystone Dental Group, a manufacturer and distributor of dental products, for the last 19 years. He lives in Berks County and is a Desert Storm veteran.

The gist: Voit’s main priority is leading the office to help people collect unclaimed property throughout PA. He claims 1 in 10 Pennsylvanians have unclaimed property belonging to them. Like Torsella, he also has a focus on higher education and hopes to fund aid to lower income Pennsylvanians through gambling and lottery revenues. Voit endorsed Donald Trump in May, becoming the first politician seeking statewide executive office in Pennsylvania to do so.

Key endorsements: National Federation of Independent Business

Learn more: Check out his plans for the office.

US Congress

Two Congressional races are being opposed in Philly but as has been the case for decades in Philly, the Democrats are easily expected to win.

1st District, Democrat Bob Brady vs. Republican Deborah Williams: Brady has held this office since 1988. Williams has worked in the private sector and is making her first attempt at political office.

2nd District, Democrat Dwight Evans vs. Republican James Jones: Evans defeated longtime incumbent Chaka Fattah in the April primary, before Fattah was convicted of corruption. Jones has run unsuccessfully for another Congressional seat in 2010.

13th District, Democrat Brendan Boyle, unopposed: Boyle will win his second term as a Congressman.

State Senate

Democrat Larry Farnese in the 1st District, Democrat Sharif Street in the 3rd District and Democrat Vincent Hughes in the 7th District are all running unopposed. The only competitive race is in the 5th District in the Northeast.

5th District, Republican Ross Feinberg vs. Democrat John Sabatina: Sabatina replaced lieutenant governor Mike Stack in this seat in May 2015. Feinberg is best known for his Trump-esque motto: “Make the Great Northeast Philadelphia Great Again.” He also ran unsuccessfully for the office of Register of Wills, vowing to eliminate the office if he was elected.  

State Assembly

Like State Senate, there are very few competitive races, most of which are happening in the Northeast. Here’s a quick rundown of those contests:

170th District, Democrat Matthew Darragh vs. Republican Martina White: White took this seat from the Democrats in the 2015 special election. She’s had success in getting legislation passed as a rookie representative and is best known for her work condemning sanctuary cities and proposing to have names of police officers kept confidential in shootings unless they are charged with crimes. Darragh has worked in the Auditor General’s office the last eight years. He’s outspoken on women’s rights issues, like equal pay, and increased education funding.

172nd District, Democrat Kevin Boyle vs. Republican Jim Pio: This is a consolation prize for Boyle, who lost to Sabatina in the primary for the 5th District State Senate seat. Pio is a financial consultant running for the first time.

177th District, Democrat Joe Hohenstein vs. Republican John Taylor: Like Martina White, Taylor is the rare Philadelphia Republican. He’s held this seat since 1985, and more of his bills passed this session than the bills of all of Philly’s House Democrats combined. Hohenstein is running on a platform of better support for schools and higher taxes for corporations. He’s a lawyer who specializes in immigration law.  

200th District, Republican Latryse McDowell vs. Democrat Chris Rabb: McDowell has little chance in winning this traditionally-Democratic seat. Rabb got here by unseating incumbent Tonyelle Cook-Artis, who had been endorsed in the primary by Tom Wolf and Jim Kenney.

The Ballot Question

judge-retirement
PA Supreme Court, Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy Photo

There’s a controversial question that will appear at the bottom of your ballot this election. It asks whether you’d like to force Pennsylvania judges to retire at age 75. What it doesn’t say is they’re currently forced to retire at age 70. For more information about the question and the controversy, read our article about it. 

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