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GOP Senate contender McCormick talks crime, immigration in western Pa. stop

Lucy Perkins
90.5 WESA

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful David McCormick came to western Pennsylvania to talk about immigration and crime Thursday. And the discussion suggested that in much of Pennsylvania, the issues aren't linked as closely as some political rhetoric suggests — including McCormick's own.

At a roundtable in Wexford, McCormick met with local law enforcement and rehabilitation specialists to talk about the impact of people illegally crossing the southern U.S. border on drug trafficking.

“It’s overwhelming what’s happening at the border right now,” said McCormick, who visited Yuma, Arizona last week. “The drug cartels have grown in significance, most of the people who come across come across with some obligation to the cartels… [I]t’s been a huge magnifier of the drug trade.”

Butler County Sheriff Mike Slupe told McCormick that local law enforcement needed “military-like” equipment to “offset what the cartel can bring in.”

“With the drugs coming in, with the immigrants going wherever in Pennsylvania, God knows where they’re at, they’re going to come to Butler County, they’re going to go to Beaver County," Slupe added.

But when McCormick asked, “Are you seeing cartel activity?” Butler County District Attorney Rich Goldinger clarified, “We don’t specifically see cartel activity in Butler County."

In fact, levels of unauthorized immigration in the state, particularly outside its largest city, are low. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that only about 153,000 of the nation's 11 million unauthorized people live in the state, about a third of those in Philadelphia.

McCormick spent much of the hour-long gathering asking about issues including immigration enforcement, drug trafficking and treatment for those with opioid use disorder.

The discussion, which included straightforward questions like "How do people take fentanyl?”, was arguably more nuanced than much of the rhetoric heard from many of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination this spring.

McCormick's campaign itself recently aired a TV ad during the Super Bowl in Pittsburgh in which headlines about crime rates, immigration and inflation flash across the screen, while audio of a crowd cheering “Let’s go Brandon” — a slogan conservatives use to mock Joe Biden — plays in the background. And during an interview about the ad on Fox News last week, McCormick blamed Biden for what he called “rampant crime in our cities, a dramatic spike in the trafficking of fentanyl and human exploitation across open borders."

One of McCormick's top competitors, business owner Jeff Bartos, struck a similar tone at a recent teletown hall with Western Pennsylvania voters. Bartos lamented that “Main Street, Pennsylvania is being crushed, crushed by inflation, mandates and crime waves.”

McCormick, 56, was CEO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world, until he stepped down to focus on his campaign earlier this year. Before that, he worked in the George W. Bush administration. His wife, Dina Powell McCormick, served as deputy national security advisor under President Trump. County documents show that as of last fall, McCormick purchased a $2.8 million house in Squirrel Hill and is now registered to vote in Allegheny County.