HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS/AP) — Pennsylvania’s two-term Republican Senator Pat Toomey is expected to announce Monday that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate or throw his hat into the Pennsylvania governor’s race in 2022.
The unexpected news caught many by surprise Sunday, especially the senator’s most vocal critics.
“I am not going to lie, I was very happy,” said Vashti Bandy, a Tuesdays with Toomey Philadelphia-based organizer. “We’ve been at his office every Tuesday since November of 2016 and have gotten, I mean, the best we’ve gotten is locked out and some of us were arrested.”
Bandy says the statewide group formed four years ago in hopes of working with the senator, but the relationship soured soon after due to a lack of access to him. Group members continue to hold weekly lunchtime rallies, now virtually, to urge the senator to be more accessible to his constituents.
“In the beginning, we had a couple of meetings with his staff and we wanted to work, and as more and more people came and I guess as more attention was put on Senator Toomey, he became less willing to speak with us,” she said.
With two years left in his Senate term, the timing of Monday’s announcement is unusual, but Drexel University political science professor Dr. Bill Rosenberg says there are several plausible explanations.
“Is it a health issue of either himself or either a family member? Is it perhaps he’s a little but disappointed in the way politics is going right now?” he said.
Rosenberg says Toomey has committed to term limits in the past, and had already served three terms in the House of Representatives in addition to his two terms in the Senate.
“I think he may have decided that the burden of having to campaign in a state that is now trending a little bit more towards the Democrats, particularly at the national level and also with the governor, that it might be hard to get re-elected again,” he said.
For Tuesdays with Toomey activists, whatever the senator’s motivations for retirement, they feel vindicated.
“I’m glad he’s decided to do something else,” Bandy said.
Sen. Toomey is expected to announce his retirement from politics at a 10 a.m. news conference in Bethlehem on Monday.
Stay with CBSPhilly.com for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.