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Mike Bloomberg endorses Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania Senate race

WASHINGTON -- Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg endorsed Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) for reelection Monday, throwing his weight, and potentially money, behind the incumbent in a critical Senate race.

Bloomberg, an independent who spoke out forcefully in favor of Hillary Clinton at last week's Democratic National Convention, also endorsed two Pennsylvania Democrats: Josh Shapiro, who is running for attorney general, and Joe Torsella, a candidate for treasurer.

"Chances are that no candidate is ever going to be perfect for you on every issue, but when brave people buck party orthodoxy and demonstrate bold, pragmatic leadership, they deserve support from all of us," Bloomberg said in a statement released by his Super PAC, Independence USA.

Bloomberg's support gives Toomey the seal of approval from a big name known for defying typical partisan loyalties. Facing Democratic attacks painting him as an extreme conservative, Toomey has worked hard to appeal to moderate, middle-ground voters, who are likely to be keys to a hard-fought race targeted by both parties.

Bloomberg, one of the country's most vocal proponents of tougher gun laws, singled out Toomey's work as the co-sponsor of a bill to expand background checks for firearms purchases, making him one of the few Republicans willing to support such measures.

"His pragmatic leadership in Washington deserves the support of every Pennsylvanian," Bloomberg said in the release.

Toomey is competing with Democrat Katie McGinty in a race that could help determine control of the Senate.

McGinty has criticized Toomey's more recent votes on gun laws, including his opposition to a Democratic measure aimed at barring terror suspects from buying guns. Toomey said the plans did not provide enough recourse for people wrongly added to federal terror watch lists, and voted for other proposals aimed at tackling the issue.

"Pat Toomey is not a moderate on gun safety, and he's certainly not a pragmatic leader," said McGinty spokesman Sean Coit, referring to that Democratic bill and the incumbent's recent comments suggesting he remains in good standing with the National Rifle Association. "No endorsement is going to change the fact that Pat Toomey is in lock step with the gun lobby in Congress."

Toomey, in a statement, said he is "proud of my work to keep guns away from those who have no right to them -- criminals, terrorists, and those with severe mental illness" and pleased to have Bloomberg's support. "It's only through finding common ground across party lines that we will make progress on this and other critical issues."

Bloomberg's group spent $5.6 million on federal campaigns in 2014, aiding members of both parties, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Among the Republicans he supported that year was U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Bucks County Republican, who had also endorsed tougher background checks.

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