Joseph M. Torsella, former president of the National Constitution Center, filed papers yesterday to begin raising money for a U.S. Senate race for the seat held by Arlen Specter.

"I intend to be a candidate . . . in 2010," Torsella said in a news release, "and I am taking all the necessary steps for my candidacy, including raising money, hiring staff and traveling around the state."

Torsella, 45, is a native of Berwick, Columbia County, in north-central Pennsylvania. He majored in economics and history at the University of Pennsylvania, went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and came back to Philadelphia in the early 1990s as a deputy mayor to Ed Rendell.

Now a resident of Flourtown, Montgomery County, Torsella led the development of the Constitution Center from 1996 until it opened in 2003.

His early plunge into the Senate race may be intended to discourage other potential candidates, including U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who beat Torsella in a congressional primary race in 2004.

Other Democrats whose names have been mentioned include state Auditor General Jack Wagner, outgoing District Attorney Lynne Abraham, state Rep. Joshua Shapiro and suburban U.S. Reps. Joe Sestak and Patrick Murphy.