PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Republican Tom Corbett defeated Democrat Dan Onorato in the race for Pennsylvania governor while Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey remained locked in a tight race for a U.S. Senate seat in Tuesday’s general election.
Corbett, 61, a career prosecutor who has been the state attorney general since 2005, ran largely on his office’s probe of legislative corruption. Onorato, 49, the elected executive of Allegheny County since 2004, touted his success in streamlining bureaucracy and holding the line on property taxes.
Sestak beat the five-term Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, and Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell is leaving office after serving the maximum two terms. The closely watched Senate race is being viewed as a referendum on the first two years of President Barack Obama’s administration.
The sunny, albeit crisp, weather across Pennsylvania appeared to help turnout. Many news outlets reported above-normal voting in some districts in and around Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hershey and the Lehigh Valley, although The Times-Tribune of Scranton reported light turnout in some northeastern Pennsylvania districts.
The Committee of Seventy election watchdog group reported scattered complaints in Philadelphia of campaigners inside polling places, a few voting machine malfunctions, and an altercation between two Republican inspectors that briefly shut down a polling place.
A suburban Pittsburgh voting precinct opened more than two hours late because the election judge supposed to be on duty there never showed up. Meanwhile, long lines that had some University of Pittsburgh students waiting up to 45 minutes to vote prompted the opening of a second polling location on campus.
One West Philadelphia polling place had to be opened with unorthodox means, according to Ellen Kaplan, vice-president and policy director of the committee.
“They couldn’t open the door, and they put a key in the lock and the key broke off in the lock,” Kaplan said. “So someone got a sledgehammer and broke open the door.”
Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman Kevin Murphy said the only serious incident reported was in Pittsburgh, where one polling place had to be closed briefly due to nearby gunfire unrelated to the election.
Two registered Democrats in Philadelphia, Priscilla Molina, a 50-year-old dog walker, and Jeffery Williams, a 37-year-old Drexel University student, voted the straight party ticket because they view Democrats as the best party to lift the country out of recession.
Obama’s “inherited a huge problem,” Molina said. “The expectation that he would have this fixed (already) is unrealistic.”
Said Williams, “Any plan is going to take a while. If we’re on a path and on a plan, changing that plan I don’t think is going to make it quicker.”
A dispute over absentee ballots may become a factor in the closely contested race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and the Republican incumbent he beat in 2006, Mike Fitzpatrick.
Elections officials in Bucks County north of Philadelphia said they may not be able to finish counting absentee ballots by today, or later in the week, the Bucks County Courier Times reported Tuesday.
Last week, the Bucks County Board of Elections agreed to impound more than 8,500 absentee ballots to preserve alleged evidence of voter fraud.
The Republican Party had challenged about 270 approved absentee ballots, claiming they bore problems such as having signatures that did not match voter registration records. Republicans also asked elections workers in Bucks County to look for ballot applications received by what they call a fictitious agency set up by Democrats.