Toomey, McGinty clash in final debate

Senate 2016 Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidates Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, left, and Democrat Katie McGinty shake hands at the end of a debate at Temple University in Philadelphia, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty clashed Monday over police shootings, abortion, taxes and health care in the second and final debate of their critical U.S. Senate race.

In one moment that drew boos from the crowd at Temple's Performing Arts Center, Toomey criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, saying "that phrase itself is meant to impugn the integrity of the police, by implying that they don't think that black lives do matter."

But others cheered as he added, "It's my view that all lives matter - and I think police get that."

Toomey also said some shootings of young black men have been "very, very disturbing" and noted his endorsement by every major police union.

McGinty, stressing that father was a Philadelphia policeman, embraced the phrase "black lives matter."

"When we recognize the dignity of any person, we're all lifted up, and when any person is denied dignity, we're all taken down," she said.

The hourlong debate, hosted by WPVI, came as the race enters its final weeks, a near toss-up likely to be one of a handful of contests to determine control of the Senate. Adding to its weight, both parties are increasingly turning their attention from the presidential contest to Congressional races.

Sharing the stage, Toomey and McGinty offered arguments honed during their sharp-edged campaign, though neither seemed to land a blow likely to alter the contest.

Toomey said he would fight for lower taxes and less regulation, in order to spark the economy. He disavowed a years' old quote - highlighted by McGinty - suggesting corporate taxes should be eliminated. He said he meant that such taxes end up costing consumers, but said he had "inartfully" made the point.

McGinty argued she would be the true champion of the working class.

Moderator Jim Gardner, though, asked about her past stated support for proposals that would raise taxes on the middle class, including increasing the cap on Social Security taxes. McGinty's response: "I wouldn't support any increase in middle-class taxes."

And she blasted Toomey for opposing bills to raise the minimum wage or ensure equal pay for women.

Toomey said he has supported measures to bar gender-based discrimination, but that the bill in question would have been a "boondoggle" for trial lawyers.

Toomey said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, arguing "You can't tweak this by fixing it around the edges," and that health-care decisions should be made by families, "not a federal bureaucracy."

McGinty questioned why he had not proposed fixes in the Senate to control health-care costs. "Where's your legislation senator?" she asked.

On abortion, it McGinty made the case for letting families choose, saying, "This is a decision for parents, for families, not for politicians."

Toomey said that in pitting personal autonomy against the sanctity of life, "I come down on the side of life," with exceptions for rape, incest or to save the a mother.

He accused McGinty of supporting late-term abortions, even for a nearly full grown fetus, saying "there's no point at which an abortion should be unacceptable for her."

She said Toomey painted a "gruesome picture" about an "incredibly difficult decisions."

Again facing questions about his support for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Toomey continued to refuse to endorse or renounce Trump, repeating that he is "stuck" between two bad choices. He said he has problems with Trump, but that the New Yorker might sign some good bills, like imposing sanctions on Iran or repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"I acknowledge that the nominee of my party is flawed. Katie McGinty is just blindly obedient to Hillary Clinton," Toomey said.

Asked by Gardner if constituents deserve to hear his view on Trump, Toomey said, "I don't think my constituents care that much how one person is going to vote - they're going to make their own decision ... I think they care much more about whether I've got policies that are going to grow this economy."

McGinty said she stands with Clinton and after the debate told reporters Toomey "is refusing to come clean and be straight" with voters.

Toomey also opened a new argument, accusing McGinty of hypocrisy for attacking his role with a bank that used aggressive foreclosure practices. He said the state Department of Environmental Protection, under McGinty, used the same techniques.

A McGinty spokesman said equating the DEP practices with the bank's is "a joke."

jtamari@phillynews.com

@JonathanTamari

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