April 28th, 2010
04:28 PM ET
5 years ago

One year later: Praise and criticism for Specter

Sen. Arlen Specter faces a tough primary battle in Pennsylvania.
Sen. Arlen Specter faces a tough primary battle in Pennsylvania.

Washington (CNN) - One year after he rocked the political world by switching parties because he didn't think he could win a Republican primary, Sen. Arlen Specter is fending off a serious Democratic primary challenge and calling for bipartisanship to pass financial reforms.

"As today completes one year since my return to the Democratic Party, I have a few observations on what we should do as senators, not as Democrats or Republicans, to tend to the nation's business in these difficult days," Specter said Wednesday in a statement delivered on the Senate floor.

Specter states that both parties agree that financial legislation is necessary and adds that "extraordinary circumstances" call for Republicans to join Democrats in passing legislation to prevent another economic crisis."

Senate Democrats failed Wednesday - for the third time in less than 48 hours - to muster the 60 votes needed to start debating Wall Street reform. But then Republicans agreed to drop their filibuster and begin debate. Democrats and Republicans still disagree about key provisions.

Specter, a long-time Republican lawmaker, changed his party affiliation on April 28, 2009.

At the time of the party flip, Specter said that the Republican Party had moved "farther and farther to the right," pushing him "more in line" with Democrats. He cited the difficulty he faced in winning the Republican primary against former Rep. Pat Toomey as a factor.

"I was unwilling to subject my 29-year record in the U.S. Senate to the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," he said. "But I am pleased to run in the primary on the Democratic ticket and am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers in the general election."

To face Toomey - the former head of the Club for Growth, a limited-government and anti-tax organization - in the general election, Specter needs to first win his Democratic primary with two-term Rep. Joe Sestak, a former Navy admiral.

Sestak plans to mark the anniversary of Specter's party switch with what his campaign calls a major speech Wednesday night in Washington.

"Senator Specter's apparent willingness, particularly in an election cycle, to say or do anything for his own political survival - a willingness to go back on his own positions even as he questions the integrity of his challengers' - represents what is wrong and broken in Washington," Sestak will say, according to excerpts released by his campaign in advance.

The ad wars in the Democratic primary battle have heated up in advance of the May 18 contest. A recent commercial by Specter questions Sestak's military record.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted earlier this month, Specter leads Sestak 53 percent to 32 percent in the primary matchup. But only 36 percent of Pennsylvania voters said that Specter deserved to be re-elected.

Republicans are also slamming Specter on the anniversary.

"Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians, the only thing consistent about Arlen Specter is that he will always put his own political preservation before the people in his state," says National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Amber Marchand.

But Senate Majority Leader and fellow Democrat Harry Reid, D-Nev., praised his longtime colleague.

"No Pennsylvanian has served that state in the United States Senate longer than he has," Reid said on the floor of the Senate. "His moderate voice has been an asset to our diverse caucus and I look forward to working with him for many years to come."

Before his switch, Specter, a Kansas native and former Philadelphia district attorney, was a leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee for much of the past two decades, serving as its chairman from 2005 to 2007.

He has survived bouts with cancer three times; most recently, he underwent chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease in 2005.


Filed under: 2010 • Arlen Specter • Pennsylvania
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    At the time of the party flip, Specter said that the Republican Party had moved "farther and farther to the right," pushing him "more in line" with Democrats

    Sounds similar to what's going on in Florida's senate race.

    April 28, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Tony in Florida

    Crist is as much of a Republican as Specter. We in Florida have known that for a while. The rest of the country is waking up to this RINO.

    Crist is toast and this is his last straw. The GOP will no longer support this guy and he knows by doing this, he is finished. This is his last stand, before he falls.

    April 28, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    The GOP has become intoletant of anyone not on the extremme right.
    I predict this will backfire on them when Christ wins in Florida.
    They can't find any middle ground and just want to make our President look bad. Win at any cost and screw the American people, that's their new motto.

    April 28, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. Willy Brown

    Buh bye in November specturd

    April 28, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Specter is a career mercenary

    Specter's vote (and now his very party and political beliefs) have been for sale to the highest bidder since he became a career politician - If he is reelected PA should be embarassed.

    April 28, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. Can you ever trust a Judas?

    Will he now stick the knife into our Democratic backs? Only if it suits his needs.

    April 28, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Ellee in PA

    Specter must go! He is a turn coat and In my opinion, is the poster child for the type of politician that needs to be rooted out this November. He has lost touch with his constituency, a career politician who had the gall to switch parties mid-term. To me, that was a slap in the face. I and others who have had personal dealings with him find him to be noxious and believes himself to be above the law. I will do everything in my power to initiate the dethroning of Specter. The man is toast as well and this is his last straw. Mr. Specter, this citizen of Pennsylvania wants you gone!

    April 28, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. valwayne

    Sen "No Principals" "Finger to the Wind" Specter is hardly someone I would take seriously calling for bipartisanship unless changing your parties and your principals to try and eak out an election make you an expert in that field!!!

    April 28, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  9. tcaros

    Kudos to Specter.. he grew a spine after 20 years.

    Really, I think his concience got to him after his medical battle with cancer.

    Sometimes he looks like Normal Fell – Mr. Roper from Three's Company.

    April 28, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  10. key

    Crist was vetted by McCain for VP. Now the GOP tea party is trying to push them both out. Maybe they should talk with Specter for some advice.

    April 28, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. stevegee

    It's time for Benedict Arnold to retire. He's lived off the taxpayers for far too many decades. And what do we have to show for it? Oh right, billions wasted on his pet project the National Institutes of Health.

    April 28, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  12. gary

    they borrowed a trillion dollars to stimulate the economy and spector voted "Yes"? That was a mistake, he was not looking out for the welfare of our nation or our children's future. He should be voted out of office.

    April 28, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. Sue in California

    Tony, if you think Crist is bad, take the governor of California. Regarding Spector, I never could stand him. He is nasty and untrustworthy. It is time he retired.

    April 28, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. Rickster

    Arlen Sphincter is a self-serving, hypocritical buffoon which means that he is now in the proper party.

    April 28, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. Dean

    Specter states that both parties agree that financial legislation is necessary and adds that "extraordinary circumstances" call for Republicans to join Democrats in passing legislation to prevent another economic crisis."

    If the Democrats put back the regulations they removed in 1999 that caused this financial mess maybe the Republicans would agree. We do not need financial regulations that calls for future bailouts and lower interest for some institutions no matter who pays for it.

    April 28, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Susan

    Much as I appreciate having another Democrat in the Senate, it should be illegal to change parties once a person is elected. If you're elected as a representative of a party, you should have to stay with that party until your term expires.

    As the old saying goes "Leave with the one that brung ya."

    April 28, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. bess

    ahhhh. 20/20 hindsight. poor arlen.

    April 28, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. Steve- Illinois

    Spector is nothing but an opportunist! If he thought he could get away with it, he would flop back to the Republican side today! Whichever way the wind blows, so blows Spector. He cares not for the people he was elected to represent. He cares not for the party he claims to belong too. He only cares about Spector!! Kick him to the curb in November!

    April 28, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. Peter E

    Let the voters of Pennsylvania decide! Why are people so afraid of democracy?

    April 28, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |