- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pat Toomey, who as a little-known congressman nearly defeated Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary, announced Wednesday that he will challenge Specter again when he seeks the Republican nomination for a sixth term next year.

Toomey, who stepped down Monday as president of the Washington-based Club for Growth, appealed to his conservative base in a statement released just before 8 a.m., while Toomey made a series of TV appearances in the Philadelphia area.

“Pennsylvanians deserve a voice in the U.S. Senate that will honor our values and fight for limited government, individual freedom and fiscal responsibility. I will be that voice,” Toomey said.

Toomey, 47, had said earlier this year that he was considering a bid for the governorship in 2010. But his sights shifted back to the Senate in March, after Specter bucked party leaders and cast one of three GOP votes — all in the Senate — to pass the $787 federal economic stimulus package that President Barack Obama signed in February.

Specter, 79, one of a dwindling number of moderates in an increasingly conservative GOP, said he was voting his conscience, “not my own personal political interest.” Toomey painted the stimulus package as part of a federal response to the recession that he said has put the nation “on a dangerously wrong path.”

Toomey’s announcement confirmed what had been virtually an open secret in recent weeks. At a gathering of Pennsylvania conservatives last month, Toomey received a standing ovation when he assured supporters that “it is very, very likely that very soon I will be a candidate for the United States Senate.”