Republican Patrick Toomey, a former Congressman from the Lehigh Valley who campaigned as a strident foe of government spending, taxes and regulation, will become the next U. S. Senator from Pennsylvania. The Associated Press called the tightly contested race betweeen Toomey and Democrat U.S. Rep Joe Sestak at 11:48 p.m. tonight.
Toomey, a 48-year-old with a background as a Wall Street trader, restaurant owner and a spokesman for conservative financial interests, held a two percentage point lead over Sestak, 58, a former Navy admiral who was the highest-ranking military officer ever to serve in Congress.
Toomey campaigned as an outsider, but with corporate connections, as leader of the prominent pro-business group Club for Growth, that allowed him to draw widespread national attention and millions in out-of-state campaign financing. Both candidates, and their respective party organizations, invested heavily in television ads trying to portray each other as extremists.
In January, Toomey will take the Senate seat held by Arlen Specter for the past 30 years. Specter, elected as a Republican, changed parties last year for fear he’d lose a GOP primary, but then lost the Democratic primary to Sestak, who defied Democratic Party leaders who wanted him out of the race.
Toomey is a native of Rhode Island who graduated from Harvard, spent six years trading derivatives on Wall Street, spent a year in Hong Kong and then settled outside Allentown, joining his brother in a family-owned restaurant business. He was elected to in the U. S. House in his mid-30s but gave up the seat after three terms to challenge U. S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the Republican primary in 2004.
Toomey lost that race by a narrow 21,000-vote margin but remained a prominent public figure as the leader of the Club for Growth, a national organization with a conservative fiscal message against federal budget deficits and taxes.
His win over Sestak will return the Senate seat to Republicans, where it had been throughout most of Specter’s career. Specter had switched parties last year, in large part due to his political calculation that he would likely lose a Republican primary fight to Toomey or another conservative.
Toomey once likened his political views to those of former U. S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who was rejected by Pennsylvania voters four years ago. Toomey is opposed to restrictions on gun ownership and would ban abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or to save a mother’s life.
But his campaign was disciplined to focus on fiscal issues. He’s opposed to any increases in federal taxes, wants to eliminate the estate tax now imposed on millionaires’ heirs, and once endorsed the elimination of all corporate taxes. Toomey said he’d vote to repeal President Obama’s health-care plan and stop spending anything left in the government’s economic stimulus program.