U.S. Senator Pat Toomey formally announced his decision not to seek reelection or run for governor in 2022 at a Tuesday morning press conference surrounded by his family.
Toomey, a Republican who was elected in 2010, said he wanted to spend more time at home following a combined 18 years in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
“The reasons that I’ve reached this decision are not political,” he said. “They’re personal.”
Toomey, 58, said he has been fielding near daily calls from supporters expressing interest in helping his reelection campaign or pitching in for a potential gubernatorial bid.
“Once I reach the decision, I need to be candid with them,” he said. “I feel like I should be candid with everybody. That’s the main reason. I made a decision. It’s not going to change, and so I want to let everybody know.”
He added that the announcement may also aid other Republicans in Pennsylvania who may be plotting runs to replace him or Gov. Tom Wolf. Toomey is the only elected statewide GOP leader aside from judges.
He plans to enter the private sector but said he does not have any specific positions in mind.
The timing — four weeks before a presidential election — puzzled some observers. Toomey stressed that it had nothing to do with recent political developments, though he said he made up his mind over the past couple weeks.
Toomey said he will serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2023. He said he hopes the GOP holds onto the Senate and President Donald Trump retains the White House so he can get more accomplished in his final two years.
He said he is regularly in contact with the president and that the pair have a “very constructive working relationship.” Toomey added that he is open to helping Trump’s campaign in any way possible.
Toomey told reporters he called the White House and left a message for Trump to inform him of the news shortly before the president tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
He reiterated his position that the Senate should hold hearings on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, judge Amy Coney Barrett, saying a vote on her appointment before Election Day is “likely.”
“I think we should go forward on this,” Toomey said. “I think we can absolutely do it safely.”
For Rosalind Holtzman, it’s another example of a Toomey flip-flopping.
Since 2016, she’s been part of Tuesdays with Toomey, a group that protests weekly outside the senator’s offices.
Critics have lambasted Toomey for his desire to hold hearings on Barrett after he backed a GOP plan in 2016 to block President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Toomey and other Republicans argue this year’s situation is different because Republicans control the Senate and White House.
“He reverses himself, and he’s done that many times,” Holtzman said.
Tuesdays with Toomey started after a handful of women showed up to Toomey’s Center City office in the wake of Trump’s victory in 2016. It has since expanded to Pittsburgh, Allentown and Harrisburg.
A consistent critique has been that the senator has never held a town hall in the Philadelphia area.
“We feel that he has not listened to his constituents, that he’s not responsive to his constituents, particularly those in and around Philadelphia,” Holtzman said.
The group had been meeting remotely since March, setting priorities, which include ousting Trump, flipping the Senate and electing Democrats to the state legislature. Another goal, Holtzman said, was making sure Toomey would never hold public office again.
“So, he’s put us ahead of schedule, and frankly, we were very happy about it,” she said.
Tuesdays with Toomey plans to continue pressuring the senator until the day he leaves his office in Washington, D.C., according to Holtzman.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party suggested Toomey’s decision was prompted by a fear he would be forced out at the polls in 2022.
“Pat Toomey is bowing out of a reelection campaign because his poll numbers show that Pennsylvanians would never send him back to Washington,” said Brendan Welch, the party’s communications director, in a statement.
Toomey said he’s confident he would have won reelection.
He also said he was proud of his achievements, especially his role in reforming the tax code, easing regulations and altering trade policy.
“I’ve got a lot of work still ahead of me,” Toomey said.