Pat Toomey, the man who drove Arlen Specter from the Republican Party, believes it's finally his year to capture a U.S. Senate seat.

Toomey is clearly the strongest candidate in the May 18 Republican primary, and he will be tough for any Democrat to beat in November. That's why The Inquirer endorses PAT TOOMEY for the Republican Party nomination.

Toomey came so close to beating Specter in the 2004 primary that the possibility of a rematch led Specter to switch parties last year.

A former three-term congressman from the Lehigh Valley, Toomey retired from the House in 2005 to become president of the Washington-based Club for Growth. The nonprofit advocacy group is known for its antitax posture, and for encouraging conservative Republican candidates to defeat moderate Republican incumbents.

Toomey has worked on Wall Street and has experience running small businesses, formerly operating a restaurant in Allentown and founding a community bank. He would have voted against the bank bailouts, saying firms must be allowed to fail, and against health-care reform, saying consumers should instead get tax breaks to purchase health insurance in a more competitive market.

Toomey's opponent, Peg Luksik, is familiar to voters as an antiabortion leader from Johnstown. It's her fourth statewide campaign for elective office, and she argues that she's the only candidate from either party who isn't a Washington insider.

Luksik said she would have voted for a debt commission to curb federal spending; the proposal failed in Congress and President Obama later created a watered-down version. Toomey says the idea is just a vehicle to raise taxes.

Toomey has won over party leaders, and is proving adept at raising campaign cash. There are signs that the state Republican Party may be moving in a more conservative direction. If that's so, Toomey would be its strongest standard-bearer in the contest for U.S. Senate.