“I made a decision. It’s not going to change, and so I want to let everybody know,” he said at a news conference in Bethlehem, Pa.
Toomey said that the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with President Trump’s standing in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Joe Biden has held a steady lead in polls for months ahead of the Nov. 3 election, and that he believed his prior victories gave him confidence that he could have won.
“I think if I decided to run, I would have won again,” he said.
Pennsylvania Republicans had been privately talking up the idea of Toomey coming home to run for governor, given his previous victories and relative strength in the Philadelphia suburbs in his 2010 and 2016 Senate wins.
Despite Trump’s narrow victory there in 2016, the Pennsylvania GOP has been in a political death spiral, struggling for relevancy in recent years. Democrats have won four of the past five governor’s races, all by huge margins, and despite Trump’s and Toomey’s victories in 2016, Democrats won statewide races for attorney general, auditor general and treasurer on the same ballot.
In recent months, Toomey had taken steps to prep for a governor’s race, issuing reports critical of Gov. Tom Wolf’s handling of the state’s economic shutdown in the early months of responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Wolf (D), who won reelection in 2018 by 17 percentage points, is term limited out of office at the end of 2022.
Most establishment Democrats are rallying behind the potential candidacy of state Attorney General Joshua Shapiro in the governor’s race, while others are carefully watching Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to see if he jumps into what will now be an open seat for the Senate race in 2022.
Pennsylvania has never elected a woman as governor or to the Senate, so some Democrats will likely push one of the four women elected in 2018 to the House from the Philadelphia suburbs — Reps. Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon and Susan Wild — to run for Toomey’s Senate seat.
On the Republican side, several of the House members likely will consider a Senate bid.
In making the announcement, Toomey was joined by his wife, Kris, and his three children. He called 18 years in public service a “long time” in which he spent as little time in Washington as possible but also “a lot of time away from home.”
“I will serve out the remainder of my term. After that, my plan is to go back to the private sector,” Toomey said.
Toomey, who is a traditional economic conservative in the model of President Ronald Reagan, was able to win his Senate races by broadening his appeal in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the vote.
In 2013, he worked with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on legislation that would strengthen gun laws by expanding background checks following the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, most of them children.
Throughout 2016 Toomey refused to say whether he would vote for Trump, whose “America First” agenda promoting tariffs and big government spending is anathema to Toomey. He only announced that he had voted for Trump minutes before the polls closed in 2016.
With those moderate steps, he kept his margin much closer in the Philadelphia suburbs. In Montgomery County, the third largest jurisdiction, Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by 97,000 votes — while Toomey lost to Democrat Katie McGinty by just 47,000 votes.
Those suburbs broke even harder against Republicans in Wolf’s 2018 reelection, in which Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D) also coasted to reelection, and they are poised to deliver major support for Biden.
Toomey, who reiterated his support for Trump on Monday, would have faced a tougher path in those suburbs had he run for Senate or governor.
Instead, Toomey is expected to finish his last two years as the GOP chairman or ranking Republican of the Senate Banking Committee depending upon who wins the Senate majority, then retire and return to the private sector.
“It is my hope that I’ll be chairman of the Senate Banking Committee because I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic that my Republican colleagues will prevail in a number of tough races, and we will be in the majority,” he said.