Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey will not seek re-election in 2022 and plans to leave public service, he confirmed, a surprise move for the fiercely anti-tax and anti-regulation lawmaker who had been seen as the favorite to be the party’s nominee for governor in two years.
Toomey’s decision will force Pennsylvania Republicans to look elsewhere for candidates for both seats in a politically divided state where both parties have shown they can win statewide races.
At a news conference near his home in suburban Allentown, Toomey said he will serve out the final two years of his second term, “and after that my plan is to go back to the private sector.”
“I always thought that I’d probably serve just two terms and often mentioned that along the way,” Toomey said at the news conference at the studios of WVLT-TV, standing with his wife and three children, the youngest of whom is 10.
Toomey called his reasons “personal, not political,” and that 18 years in public office — including six years in the U.S. House from 1999 through 2004 — is a long time and had demanded sacrifices from his family.
Toomey had long expressed an interest in running for governor, and he drew calls on a daily basis from people who he said wanted to help him run for governor or for re-election to the Senate. Once his mind was made up, he said, he felt he should be candid about it.
“I’m looking forward to more time back at home,” he said.
Toomey is a stalwart proponent of free markets and smaller government who was staunchly supported in the past by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch and the Club for Growth, the take-no-prisoners free-markets advocacy group Toomey once led.
But Toomey had often expressed frustration with how the Senate operates and had never promised to run for a third term. Still, the news of his future plans that broke Sunday has reshuffled the deck for Republicans looking ahead to the two major statewide races in two years.
As Pennsylvania’s only statewide elected Republican official outside of the courts, Toomey had been widely considered the favorite to be the gubernatorial nominee if he wanted it in 2022, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is term-limited.
With both offices open in 2022, Democrats have a bench of prospects who have won statewide races — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Treasurer Joe Torsella — and a statewide voter registration advantage over Republicans.
Republicans are left without any natural heir or obvious front-runner for either governor or U.S. Senate.
The last time anything similar happened was in 2010, when then-Gov. Ed Rendell was term-limited and then-U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter switched parties to become a Democrat in his re-election bid. He was beaten in the primary.
The advantage is likely to go to the party that loses November’s presidential elections. In mid-term elections, the party of the president tends to lose seats in Congress.