Pat Toomey Eyes Bid to Oust Arlen Specter

Speaking before a cheering crowd of Pennsylvania Republicans last month, Rep. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) effectively summed up the lesson of the 2002 election. “When you stand on principles, you win elections,” he said. Toomey’s presence in the U.S. House of Representatives is proof of that. An unapologetic supporter of Social Security reform and a champion of right-to-work issues, he won his aging, union-friendly and Democratic-leaning district—which went to Al Gore in 2000—with 57% of the vote over a top official from the steelworkers’ union. The 41-year old Toomey most excited his Lancaster County audience on January 11 by hinting at what many conservatives nationwide have long awaited: a serious conservative primary challenge to liberal incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.). “Our commonwealth has one great senator who is committed to the principles of our party,” Toomey said, referring to conservative Rick Santorum (R.). “But we deserve two—and that’s why I’m seriously considering running for the Senate.” Toomey told HUMAN EVENTS that he has not yet made a final decision about his political future, but other congressional sources speaking on background strongly believe that he will jump into the race. Star at CPAC Specter is a four-term liberal Republican (American Conservative Union rating: 42%) who helped kill President Reagan’s Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, and who famously invoked Scottish law in defense of President Bill Clinton during the 1999 impeachment trial. He has never faced a serious primary challenge before. If Toomey can raise enough money to contend with Specter’s $5 million in ready campaign cash, he could give the incumbent a tough race in next May’s primary. Several Pennsylvania GOP sources expressed hope that Toomey, who plans to leave the House in 2004 to honor a pledge to serve only three terms, will make the statewide run. The congressman’s high-profile appearance last month to push Social Security Reform at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) supports the theory that he will. The same can be said of his recent testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee—where he directly opposed Specter, who also testified—on the issue of human cloning. Specter, who received $125,000 from health care-related political action committees in the last election cycle, is one of the Senate’s most ardent supporters of experimental human cloning. Toomey, who has no special knowledge or expertise on cloning, asked to testify in favor of Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R.-Kan.) proposed cloning ban on January 29, after the subcommittee heard opposing testimony from Specter. The request caused Specter to cancel his own testimony, but he later changed his mind at the last minute, Senate staffers told HUMAN EVENTS. At the hearing, Specter appeared before the subcommittee only briefly, leaving immediately after his pro-cloning statement. At the same hearing, Toomey staked out a strongly pro-life position, stating flatly that a human embryo produced by cloning “is a human life. At a very early stage of development, of course, but entirely human nevertheless.” Specter Spooked This is significant because Toomey did not originally run for office as the conservative he has become. In his first House race in 1998, the Harvard-educated restaurateur said he supported legalized abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. In a year that saw many victories for liberal Keystone State Republicans, Toomey barely topped a six-man primary field with 27%, and went on to win his seat with 55% of the vote. But Toomey told HUMAN EVENTS last week that he has had a personal conversion on the issue of abortion. “The truth is, when I was first a candidate and in my first term, I was still struggling with the issue of banning all very early-term abortions,” he said. Toomey bucked pro-lifers twice—in 1999 and 2000—by voting against bills to block Food and Drug Administration approval of the abortion drug RU-486. “I was never really comfortable with the votes I cast on that issue,” he said. “Somewhere toward the beginning of my second term—after the birth of my daughter and after a lot of thought, reflection and prayer—I realized that the only way to be at peace with my conscience would be to be 100% pro-life, to support a ban on abortion from the moment of conception. And that’s where I’ve been ever since.” Indeed, Toomey has voted a 100% right-to-life line since 2000, according to the National Right-to-Life Committee. Toomey’s newfound pro-life views have quickly endeared him to social conservatives, who already view him favorably in contrast to Specter, said Michael Geere of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “My sense is that in speeches before some socially conservative groups, is that he’s being very well received,” he said. Club for Growth President Stephen Moore (who is also economics correspondent for HUMAN EVENTS) said that his group, which focuses on economic issues, is inclined to back him in a Senate run. Club for Growth raised about $130,000 for Toomey in the November election. Toomey has also received public encouragement from the Pennsylvania chapters of the American Builders’ and Contractors Association, a national trade group. Bill Wilson, who managed Steve Friend’s unsuccessful 1992 primary challenge to Specter, told HUMAN EVENTS that a Toomey campaign is likely to have an immediate affect on Specter’s behavior in the Senate. Specter, he said, will probably move to the right during the election year if he feels threatened by a conservative challenger. “The worst thing that will happen is that the guy is re-nominated, but that he’s had to cast some decent votes between now and May 2004,” said Wilson. “The more pressure he feels, the more Republican his votes will be.” HOW THEY SQUARE OFF

Lifetime American Conservative Union rating
Lifetime Americans for Democratic Action rating
Lifetime Gun Owners of America rating
107th Congress Right to Life rating
McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Bill
Bush-Brownback Human Cloning Bill


View All