Skip to main content

Susquehanna Life

Sweet Seat

Mar 11, 2015 08:57AM ● By Erica Shames

When U.S. House and Senate Republicans met in Hershey last January, for the first joint House and Senate Republicans Retreat in 10 years, they understood why Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R-Sweetest Place on Earth), was appointed to the sweetest job in the Senate. 

“In his continuing fight against the deficit – the candy deficit -- Toomey has accepted the weighty responsibility of stocking the Senate’s coveted “Candy Desk,” said Elizabeth E.R. Anderson, Toomey's communications director.

Way back when

Since 1965, the Candy Desk has been located in the back row, on the Republican side of the U.S. Senate, adjacent to the most heavily used entrance to the Senate Chamber, explained Julie E. Adams, the 33rd Secretary to the Senate. 

“The Candy Desk duty is Mounds of responsibility,” Toomey said. “I campaigned for this assignment on the platform of life, liberty and the pursuit of Peeps and hope Pennsylvania’s treats will sweeten the bitter partisan atmosphere.” 

Sen. George Murphy of California originated the practice of keeping a supply of candy in his desk for his fellow senators, Toomey said. Each senator who has occupied the desk since has carried on the tradition of providing their colleagues with a sugar rush. While the Candy Desk is stocked by Republicans, it is intended for the enjoyment of Senators from both sides of the aisle. Past Candy Desk occupants have included: Sen. Mark Kirk, (R-Ill.), in 2011; former Sen. Rick Santorum, (R-Pa.), in 1997; Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), in 1987; Sen. Richard Lugar, (R-Ind.), in 1977, and a number of others, Anderson said.

How sweet is it?

Pennsylvania, the snack capital of the world, according to, ranks first in the production of chocolate, potato chips and pretzels. There are more than 2,300 food processing and manufacturing companies in the state.

Candy industry historians attribute the concentration of candy makers in the state to German (Pennsylvania Dutch) settlers who populated the state. The German immigrants were well known for making chocolate and other confections.

In the late 1880s, Milton Hershey established the Hershey Co. Today, the business is a global confectionery leader, according to the Hershey Co. Employing 13,000, the company works year-round to produce more than 80 candy brands, which account for an annual revenue in excess of $7.1 billion.

“We are home to the best confectioners in the world,” Toomey said. “Hershey’s, of course, is headquartered in Central Pennsylvania. Mars makes Three Musketeers in Elizabethtown. Just Born creates Peeps in Bethlehem. And we are proud of our smaller candy makers too, including Asher’s in Kulpsville, Wilbur Chocolate in Lititz, Josh Early Chocolates in the Lehigh Valley and many, many more.”

Pennsylvania is home to more than 200 confectioner companies, which employ about 10,000 workers. These include Gertrude Hawk, Cherrydale Farms, R.M. Palmer, The Warrell Corp., Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co., Quigley Manufacturing, Lukas Confections, Wolfgang Candy Co. and Sorbee International.

All in the family

Toomey and his family are not strangers to Hershey. At different times, Sen. Toomey has taken his three children there. Toomey said he wanted the appointment to the Candy Desk “to showcase Pennsylvania's delicious treats.” 

Toomey knows and has been in contact with many of the people involved in the industry.

“My favorite candy is Three Musketeers made in Elizabethtown,” Toomey said. “I have a bowl of fun size [Musketeers] in my office. I plan to stock the Candy Desk with Pennsylvania’s finest chocolate and deliciousness to ensure a surplus of sweets.”

If he had not chosen political service and opted, instead, to work in the candy industry, Toomey said his dream job would have been “quality control officer at the Three Musketeers factory in Elizabethtown.”

For more information visit the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Confectioners’ Association at

by Jeffrey B. Roth

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Susquehanna Life's free newsletter to stay informed