Some Specter loyalists line up to support Toomey
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WASHINGTON - When the election returns showed Sen. Arlen Specter heading to a Democratic primary defeat last month, he called his foe, Rep. Joe Sestak, to offer his support in the general election campaign.
The same cannot be said of core Specter loyalists.
Former Specter chief of staff David Urban is pulling together a group of Republicans with Pennsylvania ties - some of whom stayed loyal to Mr. Specter when he switched parties last year - to get behind Republican Pat Toomey for the fall Senate race.
Mr. Urban, a Washington lobbyist who was Mr. Specter's top staffer from 1997 to 2002, said he will convene more than a dozen current and former Republican chiefs of staff from the Pennsylvania delegation to discuss how to help Mr. Toomey.
"Republicans want to win," said Mr. Urban, who has remained an informal campaign adviser since leaving Mr. Specter's employ. "Pat Toomey's the candidate, and we want to get him across the goal line."
Six years ago, Mr. Urban was working to stop Mr. Toomey, who narrowly lost a Republican primary race to Mr. Specter. But the conflict was never personal, Mr. Urban said, and when he ran into Mr. Toomey in December at the Pennsylvania Society receptions in New York, Mr. Urban mentioned in passing that the two of them should get together if Mr. Specter lost the primary.
After Mr. Specter fell, Mr. Toomey called Mr. Urban.
The lobbyist, a Beaver County native, said he hopes to connect Mr. Toomey with moderate Republicans and some conservative Democrats across Pennsylvania who might view him as an arch-conservative. Mr. Toomey took strong anti-spending stances during three terms in Congress, challenged Mr. Specter from the right in 2004 and headed the Club For Growth - an organization that backs conservative candidates across the country, often against Republican incumbents.
"Pat is a fiscal conservative, and a lot of folks misunderstand what that means and once ... they hear from him and get in a room with him and talk to him, they are going to see that he's not far to the right," Mr. Urban said.
In addition, the network of former chiefs of staff can be influential to help Mr. Toomey get to know the key people across Pennsylvania's widely different Congressional districts.
"It's always very hard to run statewide, you have to build vast networks of supporters," said Toomey campaign manager Mark Harris. "Obviously Senator Specter had 30 years to build his networks, and being able to tap into those is big."
Sestak campaign spokesman Jonathon Dworkin wrote in an e-mail that it should be no shock that Mr. Toomey "has the backing of Republican insiders down in Washington." And the Democrat still has the biggest-name endorsement of them all.
"Senator Specter has served Pennsylvania for 30 years, and Joe looks forward to drawing on his unique experience," Mr. Dworkin wrote.
First Published June 8, 2010 12:00 am