Pat Toomey, candy man: What PA sweets he’s stocking for the U.S. Senate

Sorry, ex-Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk — “those bastards in Hershey” are back.

US Senate/Billy Penn Illustration

Pat Toomey is set for another year as the Senate’s candy man.

If this is your first time hearing of this 49-year tradition, we promise you, it is a very real thing. The senator who sits at desk No. 80 has the esteemed privilege of filling his or her drawer with sweets. The tradition quickly grew into a chance to show off beloved treats from the senator’s home state.

Now, when it comes to candy, no state can really flex like ours. We’ve long been the leading state in the confectionery industry, accounting for more than one seventh of the industry’s earnings in the US, per National Confectioners Association data. So, what does Toomey, the candy man, take to the Senate Chamber? His spokeswoman E.R. Anderson gave Billy Penn a rundown of what’s in the desk right now, but before we dive in, some history.

A throwback photo of the candy desk.

A throwback photo of the candy desk.

US Senate

The candy desk is Republican-controlled and has been since it was created in 1968. The candy desk is in the last row, in the farthest section of the Republican side of the aisle. So, as this solid DCist explainer notes, for a Democrat to serve as the candy man or candy woman, there would need to be 80+ Democratic senators — just because of where the candy desk is physically located.

The first-ever candy man was George Murphy, a California senator elected in 1964 who reportedly loved his sweets enough to garner a reputation for it. Other lawmakers would stop by his seat to score candy. A tradition began.

Rick Santorum was the first Pennsylvanian candy man. He served in this post for 10 years, from 1997 until he lost his seat. Hershey’s would send 100 pounds of candies to Santorum quarterly. Some in Congress have come to regard this as a peak candy desk era, but not everyone loved Pennsylvania having a decade-long reign.

Mark Kirk, an Illinois senator who served as candy man from 2011 to 2015, cracked to Marketplace: “They offered me all of the desks on the Republican side, and I wanted to make sure that those bastards in Hershey, Pennsylvania, couldn’t get the candy desk.”

We got it back last January when Toomey won the spot. ?

Candy open for the taking in Toomey's reception area.

Candy open for the taking in Toomey's reception area.

Provided by Toomey's Office

Senator Toomey and his staff cannot ask for donations to the candy desk,” Anderson explained in an email. “So, he stocks the desk with what Pennsylvania companies send and what the trade groups that represent confectioners contribute.”

This might seem like it could bust donation caps, but local goods meant for giveaways like this are an exception.  

What’s inside the candy desk atm

Hershey’s Kisses (of course), from Hershey (of course)

Milky Ways, made in Elizabethtown

Pennsylvania Dutch Caramels— brand unspecified, from (presumably) the Amish Country, like these caramels below

3 Musketeers (Toomey’s fave), made in Elizabethtown

Twizzlers, from Lancaster

Turkish Taffy, made in York



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