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Economy A Major Focus In Toomey-McGinty Battle

Matt Rourke

During the 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville, a Bill Clinton campaign strategist, succinctly summarized voter concerns: “It’s the economy, stupid!"

We talked to U.S. Senate candidates Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty about important issues this election. This is the first installment in a four-part WESA series.

Twenty-five years later, the candidates in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race have taken that advice to heart. 

Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty have made the economy and job creation a major focus of their campaigns. And with the current economic state of small towns and rural communities in the state described as “depressed,” they have each come up with plans for reviving them.     

For her part, McGinty said Western Pennsylvania can compete in manufacturing again.

“We should be optimistic about where we are. We have some of the best work force in the country in Pennsylvania and Western Pennsylvania in particular,” McGinty said. “But making stuff now is as much about a joystick as it is a forklift. And so when we have the excellence of Carnegie Mellon in robotics, at Pitt in life sciences, at Penn State in engineering, you put those things together, plus the fact that we sit in the middle of the biggest buying market in the world, our speed to market is quicker than any of our competitors. That’s a recipe for success. But we have to go after it.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Toomey said western Pennsylvania has been underperforming economically and that Washington D.C. has to address the reasons why.

“Reforming our tax code to encourage work and savings and investment would lead to growth,” Toomey said. “We’ve got to push back these crazy regulatory excesses, especially Washington’s ridiculous war on energy jobs. And we should take advantage of this incredible asset we have right underneath our own ground which is natural gas in an almost unlimited supply. That gives us a competitive advantage that no one else in the world enjoys. And that can help heavy industry. That’ll help people who have to bend metal. People have to use lots of energy. So, I think that combination of a more competitive and pro-growth tax code, more sensible and less onerous regulation and taking advantage of our energy, I think we can have a booming economy here in western Pennsylvania.” 

So far, Sen. Toomey has avoided saying whether he supports Donald Trump for president. But one Trump statement he seems to agree with is the idea of bringing the steel and coal industries back.  

“A lot of steel can come back," Toomey said. "It takes a booming economy to create enough demand for the steel products and right now our economy is weak. That absolutely can have a substantial rebound. Coal is a very, very inexpensive source of electric generation and we’ve learned how to dramatically reduce, I mean like almost eliminate, the pollutants that used to pollute our air from coal. So, if we didn’t have the regulatory obstacles, coal would come back absolutely.”

McGinty said if she’s elected, she will push hard as a U.S. Senator for “buying American.”   

“Where are our tax dollars going? For every good and service that we are procuring are we buying from local companies invested in our communities? We should and need to be,” she said.  “And when we do, you bet it’ll be the best goods and services in the world.”

But how do you ensure that?

“Well, I think just as I did when I was secretary of (the Pennsylvania department of) environmental protection, we set about to build good jobs in the renewable energy space, manufacturing jobs,” said McGinty. “And the way we did that is to say, look, the Commonwealth is the biggest consumer of energy in Pennsylvania. So, we put our energy purchasing dollars to work to buy from those companies that were hiring Pennsylvanians.”