A Seattle University graduate, Toner's political career began in the early 1970s, when he helped draw community groups together to form Metro Transit. He also served as an aide to former U.S. Congressman Brock Adams and directed the National Young Democrats.
His wide-ranging interests led him to become involved in campaigns to build new stadiums for the Seattle Mariners baseball team and the Seahawks football team. In 1998, he helped promote the Libraries for All levy. He was also an active supporter of Seattle University and the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, of Childhaven, and of the Schools First! group.
On October 10, 2000, Toner died of heart failure at the age of 58. At the time of his death he was senior vice president of APCO Worldwide and a close associate of public affairs advisers Bob Gogerty and Don Stark and political strategist Cathy Allen.