At a time when many of us have lost faith in our leaders, former Congressman Pat Toomey is a shining light in the political wilderness.
Pat Toomey is everything you'd want in a politician. Smart, likable, honest. A man of principle.
When he ran for Congress, he promised the voters he would adhere to a self-imposed term limit. He wouldn't end up a career politician, growing fat and arrogant at taxpayers' expense while succumbing to the temptations of power and greed that have infected Washington, D.C.
Toomey, a Republican, gave up his House seat at the height of his popularity. To the delight of supporters, he sought a bigger challenge, taking on longtime Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (see career politician).
Few gave Toomey a chance against the well-financed and entrenched Specter. An underdog all the way, Toomey nearly upset Specter in 2004, making a persuasive case that Specter was a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
Toomey lost his Senate bid, but his campaign of ideas turned him into a conservative icon in Pennsylvania Republican circles. It also brought Toomey to national prominence and led to his current job as executive director of the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee.
For many Pennsylvania Republicans who are disgusted with the current leadership, Toomey is the party’s future.
I've had the pleasure of meeting Pat Toomey in person. I'm a pretty good judge of people, especially politicians. I've spent enough time around politicians to know when I have to watch my wallet when we're in the same room. Toomey came across as a decent person who truly wants to make the world — or at least his corner of it — a better place to live.
Toomey was the keynote speaker at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference over the weekend. The two-day event, attended by more than 500 conservative activists, featured a Who's Who of the reform movement in Pennsylvania: Chris Lilik of the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania, Timothy Potts of Democracy Rising PA, Russ Diamond of PaCleanSweep and Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Dozens of invited guests, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, spoke at the conference, but Toomey stole the show. In under 30 minutes at the podium, Toomey re-invigorated the conservative movement, rallied the troops for the 2006 elections and gave key endorsements to challengers seeking to oust party leaders.
Toomey endorsed the challengers running against state Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubilerer, two Republican leaders who have abandoned GOP principles a long time ago.
There's too much power in too few hands in the Pennsylvania legislature, which has led to the myriad of problems Pennsylvania is facing today, Toomey argued.
"Some have been there too long," Toomey said, referring to legislators who held on to seats for decades. "They raised taxes. They’ve increased spending."
This is a Republican telling fellow Republicans they must oust their own party leadership if Pennsylvania has any chance for a future.
Toomey threw his support behind Republican Mike Folmer, running in the 48th Senate District, and Republican John Eichelberger, running in the 30th Senate District.
"There comes a time when taking on the establishment is the right thing to do," Toomey said. "Electing these two men not only sends a signal, but it begins the change. It is the change."
Toomey also mentioned two other conservative legislative candidates, Matt Shaner and Mark Harris, by name.
Brightbill spent thousands of dollars over the weekend to run attack ads in several newspapers against his opponent. The best Brightbill can do to smear Folmer was to point out that Folmer has missed meetings on the Lebanon City Council.
This coming from a man drawing $106,000 a year salary for a part-time job who routinely makes deals with Ed Rendell on casino gambling, massive increases in state spending and the infamous July 2005 pay raise. Brightbill is so far out of touch with the people he represents, he might as well be living on the moon.
Toomey made it very clear whom he is supporting for Pennsylvania governor. He endorsed Lynn Swann as a sensible alternative to Ed Rendell, a tax-and-spend liberal who has failed to keep his most basic campaign promise — property tax reduction. "He needs to be fired," Toomey said of Rendell.
Toomey also urged conservatives to support Rick Santorum for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Santorum is clearly the best choice and Toomey isn't letting hard feelings enter into the endorsement. Many credit Santorum's endorsement of Specter with helping Arlen return to the Senate in 2004. Santorum's views on the issues are much closer to Toomey's.
Toomey wants what's best for Pennsylvania, even if it means endorsing the man who may have cost him a shot at the U.S. Senate two years ago. At a time when many of us have lost faith in our leaders, Toomey is a shining light in the political wilderness.
Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas