Candidates prove worthy in upcoming Pa. elections

The next elections for federal offices are approaching quickly and our neighbors in Pennsylvania will once again experience competitive races for President and U.S. Senate, reinforcing the Keystone State’s reputation as a political battleground.

While new candidates are starting to emerge and incumbents are deciding whether or not to run again, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter is already being challenged by Rep. Patrick Toomey in the GOP primary.

Both men are well-qualified with impressive voting records and viewpoints on the issues.

Specter is seeking a fifth term in the upper house. He is a traditional Northeastern Republican, who is moderate on social issues, federal social insurance, the environment and education.

An ally of President Bush, Specter has supported his education reforms as well as his economic and foreign policy agenda. He has been an industrious advocate of the balanced budget amendment, a line-item veto, a 20 percent federal flat tax and the death penalty.

Toomey came from the private sector, not politics. Toomey had earned the support of fellow Republicans and former Governor of Pennsylvania and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and he went on to defeat Democratic State Senator Ray Afflerbach with 55 percent of the vote.

Toomey has made a name for himself on a range of issues, including Medicare modernization, Social Security reform, social conservatism and reductions in spending and taxation levels.

He has been a star on the House Budget Committee, working with the Republican majority on long-term budget planning.

I’m encouraged by Toomey’s pro-business, free-market approach to issues. He is self-term limited and I appreciate his dedication to the term limits movement.

He would bring both youth and experience to the U.S. Senate.

He has cast himself as a true Republican and Specter as a “consistent liberal,” a regrettable but necessary tactic.

Toomey needs to gain the confidence of an estimated 1 million conservative voters among 3.2 million registered Republicans. Sen. Rick Santorum’s successful campaigns indicate that conservatives like Toomey can win statewide elections.

Specter, however, has the backing of the White House and the Senate Republican leadership. Specter’s funding base is largely in the more populated areas.

Specter has a clear financial advantage, high name recognition and organizational support.

Toomey, on the other hand, is known as an avid fundraiser who could quickly build a statewide campaign. Specter also has a proven record of winning elections.

Specter’s decisions on President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, the impeachment of President Clinton and his interrogation of Anita Hill were controversial, yet principled and I admire him for his candor and consideration during difficult times.

This race has the potential to narrow considerably. I tend to favor Specter’s reelection to make certain that Republicans retain both Pennsylvania Senate seats, but with such a stellar record in the U.S. House, Toomey deserves a chance to become a U.S. Senator.

Despite the possibility that the Senate primary could become contentious and nasty, this should be an exciting race.

If the candidates stick to issues and their Congressional records, the GOP will be in good condition after the primary is held.