Clinton, Trump neck-and-neck in battleground Pennsylvania
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were neck-and-neck in battleground Pennsylvania on Tuesday, each seeking an important electoral prize after a hard-fought race that saw voters get plenty of face time with the candidates. The fiercely contested presidential race was reflected in close contests up and down the Pennsylvania ballot.
Amid heavy turnout, Trump sought to become the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania since 1988, while Clinton looked to the state to help blunt the billionaire businessman’s surprising momentum in key swing states around the country.
The photo finish capped a long, nasty campaign in which both candidates lavished attention on Pennsylvania. Election officials reported few problems at the polls, with concerns about possible voter intimidation and fraud proving unfounded.
In the night’s other marquee matchup, GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey battled Democratic challenger Katie McGinty to end history’s most expensive Senate race.
Four hours after the polls closed, both races were too close to call. Recounts are mandatory in contests for statewide office in which the margin is 0.5 percent or less of the total vote.
Pennsylvanians also chose a new attorney general and other statewide row officers, voted in contests for U.S. House and the state Legislature, and decided whether to raise the retirement age for judges amid complaints the ballot question was deceptively worded.
With votes still being counted, Democrat Josh Shapiro claimed victory over Republican John Rafferty — and Rafferty conceded — in the race to succeed Kathleen Kane as attorney general, the state’s top law enforcement officer. Kane resigned in August after she was convicted of leaking secret investigative information and lying about it in a scheme to smear a rival prosecutor.
Many voters weren’t exactly thrilled with the choice at the top of the ticket. About 1 in 4 said neither Trump nor Clinton was honest, according to an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks. Only 5 percent said both candidates were qualified to be president.
“I’m appalled that this man has made it as far as he’s made,” said Marianne Phillips, a 71-year-old Democrat from Allentown who voted for Clinton.
On the other side of the state, Jared Reilly, 41, voted for the first time in his life. He cast his ballot for Trump. Clinton “should be buried under the jail,” he said.
With Democrats outnumbering Republicans by more than 900,000 voters, Pennsylvania was among the traditionally blue states that Trump hoped to flip as he tried to cobble together the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White house.
He campaigned in blue-collar enclaves like Wilkes-Barre and Johnstown — whose economies have struggled since the collapse of heavy industries like coal mining and steel production decades ago — betting his populist message would motivate voters in small towns and rural areas to get to the polls and counter Clinton’s anticipated strength in voter-rich Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Clinton, likewise, spent plenty of time in Pennsylvania and blanketed the state’s airwaves with ads that used Trump’s own inflammatory and offensive words against him, painting the Republican as dangerously unfit. She counted on President Barack Obama’s winning coalition of young voters, liberals, women and minorities to propel her to victory in a state without which no Democrat has won the White House since Harry Truman in 1948.
The economy was Pennsylvania voters’ top concern, according to the exit poll.
Just below Clinton and Trump on the ballot was the hotly contested U.S. Senate race. Toomey was among the most vulnerable Senate Republicans as the GOP sought to hang onto its 54-46 Senate majority.
The Senate campaign dominated TV screens, becoming the nation’s most expensive race ever with spending in excess of $160 million.
Voters also decided whether to change the Pennsylvania Constitution to raise the mandatory retirement age for more than 1,000 appellate, county and district judges from 70 to 75. Some voters complained the poll question was confusing, making it seem as if they were being asked to establish a retirement age for the first time instead of to raise it.
The ballot also included statewide races for treasurer and auditor general.
For treasurer, Democrat Joe Torsella and Republican Otto Voit vied to fill an office that’s also been marred by corruption. Democrat Rob McCord resigned last year and pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges.
In the race for auditor general, Democrat Eugene DePasquale sought re-election against Republican John Brown.
Two races for seats in the U.S. House were notable.
Democrat Dwight Evans will replace the resigned and convicted Chaka Fattah in a heavily Democratic congressional district in Philadelphia. Evans won a special election to fill out Fattah’s term and a full two-year term to follow.
Republican Brian Fitzpatrick won a congressional seat in the Philadelphia suburbs — and will replace his brother, Mike Fitzpatrick, who’s retiring.
Republicans appeared to be on track to increase their large majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.
There were scattered reports of glitches on older electronic machines across the state. The problems involved about 25 machines of nearly 24,000 in use statewide, according to Pennsylvania election officials, who said voters were moved to other booths while the errant machines were quickly recalibrated.
Associated Press writers Maryclaire Dale and Errin Whack in Philadelphia, Megan Trimble in Allentown and Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.