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Toomey hits economy, security in York stop

Sean Philip Cotter
  • Sen. Pat Toomey, who is seeking re-election, stopped in York County on Wednesday.
  • Toomey focused on economic and security issues.

Fighting for his political life, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey stopped Wednesday afternoon in Springettsbury Township to speak to supporters, focusing on economic and national-security issues in a short address.

The loudest cheer from the receptive crowd of a few dozen at the York County Republican Committee headquarters came when Toomey spoke about the Guantanamo Bay prison, which President Barack Obama has repeatedly called to close.

"I only have one criticism of the Guantanamo Bay facility," he said: "There's too many empty beds."

He called Obama's idea to close the facility, which opponents say merely feeds into the propaganda of terrorists, "dangerous."

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Toomey is locked in one of the most high-profile senate races in the country with Democrat Katie McGinty, a former chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf and state Department of Environmental Protection secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Toomey, who was elected to the position in 2010, leads in recent polls by an average of 2.6 points, according to polling aggregator Real Clear Politics. The two most recent polls were released July 14, one showing Toomey up 10 points, and the other showing McGinty on top by three points.

Senator Pat Toomey speaks to supporters at the York County Republican Committee headquarters Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Springettsbury Township. Amanda J. Cain photo

"I am sort of ground zero for the Democratic plan to take control of the United States Senate," Toomey told those in attendance. "Their plan is to put — God forbid — Hillary Clinton in the White House."

He said economic issues and and security topics such as Guantanamo Bay are the ones he hears about most from the people he represents. He tried to tie McGinty to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Obama, who he said had presided over radical and dangerous policy changes.

He touched on the issue of "sanctuary cities," saying he is against them, as evidenced by the bill he ultimately unsuccessfully introduced to cut federal money to them.

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He also spoke out against the Iran nuclear deal and the Affordable Care Act — "Obamacare" — saying the former was dangerous and the latter was too expensive and included too much government regulation. To nods in the audience, he lauded the Pennsylvania natural-gas industry, saying that too much government regulation would push it out of the state.

Several York County elected officials were in attendance: District Attorney Tom Kearney, Commissioner Chris Reilly, Sheriff Rich Keuerleber and state Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill, Stan Saylor and Seth Grove. Reilly and York County Republican Committee Chairman Alex Shorb spoke briefly before Toomey took the podium in the small, packed room at the local GOP headquarters on Kingston Court.

"We need to fight harder than ever to retain our Republican principles," Shorb said before passing off the microphone.

Trump: Toomey spoke to the press after addressing the attendees, answering questions that mainly revolved around Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who the senator has not endorsed. Toomey said he "had concerns" about whether Trump "would govern as a conservative"  — worries he's voiced before.

Toomey didn't go to the Republican National Convention, which nominated Trump on Tuesday in Cleveland. The senator instead chose to meet with constituents, such as those in York County.

"This is much more productive to me as a candidate," he said.

Senator Pat Toomey gestures as he speaks at the York County Republican Committee headquarters Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Springettsbury Township. Amanda J. Cain photo

Toomey said Trump, as of late, had allayed some of his concerns; Toomey applauded the choice of the conservative Mike Pence, Republican governor of Indiana, to be Trump's running mate, and he said the list Trump circulated of possible Supreme Court appointees appeared to be encouraging.

Toomey said he still wasn't ready to endorse the New York businessman, though.

"I want to be assured he's going to govern as a principled conservative candidate" who's against government overreach, he said.

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Trump has run a populist-angled campaign that's gone against some classic conservative small-government orthodoxy, while at the same time drawing criticism for controversial comments and sometimes-changing policy ideas regarding  Hispanics, women, Muslims and other groups.

"Donald Trump is a unique candidate," he said. "The effect his campaign is going to have on the other races is impossible to predict."

— Reach Sean Cotter or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.

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