April 28th, 2009
03:01 PM ET
14 years ago

Specter to face a Democratic primary

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Joe Torsella, the frontrunner for the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, announced Tuesday that he will not step aside following the news that Republican Sen. Arlen Specter would run for re-election as a Democrat in 2010.

Specter, who is seeking a sixth term, announced earlier in the day he would switch his party affiliation to the Democratic Party. Torsella's decision to stay in the race means that Specter will face a Democratic primary in 2010.

"I decided to run for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania for one simple reason: I believe we need new leadership, new ideas, and new approaches in Washington," Torsella, the former head of the National Constitution Center, said in a statement sent to CNN. "It's become obvious that the old ways of doing business might have worked for the special interests, but they haven't worked for the rest of us.

"Nothing about today's news regarding Senator Specter changes that, or my intention to run for the Democratic nomination to the Senate in 2010 – an election that is still a full year away."

Torsella is vowing to move forward, but some top Pennsylvania Democrats say that once he senses the extent of the support Specter will receive from the party, the field is likely to clear for the incumbent.

On Tuesday, according to an administration official, Obama called Specter and told him: "You have my full support, and we're thrilled to have you" in the Democratic Party. Specter told reporters Sen. Joe Lieberman had offered to come to Pennsylvania and campaign on his behalf, and that Rendell had earlier offered fundraising assistance.

When Gov. Ed Rendell and Vice President Joe Biden both pulled Specter aside separately after the February economic summit in Philadelphia - an event where they teased him publicly that he should be a Democrat - to encourage him to change parties, the senator said: "No, I can't do that to the moderate wing of the party," according to a top Pennsylvania Democrat.

Rendell himself was informed of Specter's party switch Tuesday while in a meeting. "I have Obama on the phone for you. Obama said – Specter is becoming one of us. Call him," a staffer told the governor.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, sidestepped questions about a Democratic primary Tuesday at a news conference.

"I am not going to get into 2010 discussions," Casey said. "I just think its premature today. We're very happy about this, but I am not going to answer any questions about support."

Rep. Joe Sestak, another Pennsylvania Democrat, is said to be considering a run for Senate. On Tuesday, he said Specter would need to prove himself to his new party. "I think he’s going to have to address two questions," he said on MSNBC. "First, when I got into politics, I really ran for something, not against someone. And so it became pretty tough for him. But in a sense he’s shifting parties because he found it hard to run against someone. So I’m interested to see what he’s running for...

He also said Specter would not have his immediate support. "I’m going to have to wait. Because if the alternative is Toomey, that’s one issue. In my mind this is an extremely important moment in the sense of accountable leadership. [Here] a decision has been made that it’s easier to run somewhere else, and so we’ve got to make a decision, is that the type of individual we want to take us forward?"

Filed under: Arlen Specter
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Mel

    Senator Specter has had enough of the hypocracy. His leaving the GOP has tilted the party even further to the right. Rush, the party boss is hoping that John McCain and Meghan go as well, but it is too late for John McCain, who has already sold his integrity to the hypocrites for a bowl of "presidential wanabee" stew. However, we will take Meghan and all the young people because they are still honest and can call a spade a spade.

    Welcome Senator Specter, what took you so long?

    April 28, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. Bill

    A strong decision, both strategically and morally, on Sen. Specter's part.

    Given the flight from the Pennsylvania Republican Party as tens of thousands of moderates switched their registrations to vote for Obama in the state's Democratic primary, the state Republicans are now a party of far-right conservatives.

    That means Specter faced a difficult primary battle against a hard-line anti-tax former congressman despite the incumbent's overall popularity.

    More importantly, it meant Sen. Specter was aligning himself with a party that had left him and his fellow centrists behind in its shift to the right.

    The Democratic Party is where Specter belongs ideologically and will allow him to represent himself and his constituents more sincerely.

    April 28, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Tony

    McCain, Specter, Kennedy, Hatch, Byrd, both of the Senators from Hawaii....RETIRE PLEASE! This is what is wrong with American politics. This is what Obama ran on...change.

    Any Dem that's happy about this is not a true Dem. This is so about his political survival and only about his political survival. At least Jeffords did it on merit.

    April 28, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Welcome to the DNC Arlen

    I plan on Donating to Arlen Specter's campaign when he run for Senate as a Democrat!

    April 28, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. lynn in NM

    Go Joe! Arlen has proven he is nothing but a politician (lower than a snake's belly).

    April 28, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |

    EVERYTHING the REPUBLICANS do is a trick. They are the worst
    of the worst and should leave the public life and go to TEXAS to
    "suceed" from the USA!

    They are all full of tricks, just like McCain.

    Think of WHO's WHO in the Republican Party. THey are pigs.

    April 28, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Lisa, Saugus MA

    So let's see who Harry Greed and Nancy Pelosi support now. Do you support an old hasbeen like Spector (who probably won't vote the dems way much of the time) or some new fresh blood with new thoughts and ideas.

    I think Spector bit of his nose to spite his face.

    April 28, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. jp,michigan

    Becoming a turn coat, occurred months ago when he helped pass the stimulus bill. Just becoming a democrat does not assure him a win in Pennsylvania.

    April 28, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  9. John in Ohio

    Specter's approval ratings among Democrats are in the 60+% range. He's also high among Independents, and decent among Republicans.

    April 28, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. AnnMM

    I don't live in PA but I'm still going to give money to his campaign.

    April 28, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. GuyInVA

    Sorry Mr. Torsella, you have no prayer. No matter how loyal a democrat you have been, your party just "Ned Lamonted" you. Ask Senator Lieberman.

    April 28, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |

    Olympia Snow said, "Spector leaving the Republican Party is
    devastating." Devastating???? Snow ought to
    "hurry up" and leave too, because that party and the tricksters
    that are leading them will be leaving or losing. THe Republican
    Party care about "their power, their money, and themselves. Just
    like Bush and Cheney. The Republican party does NOT care about
    90% of our population.

    Should the Republicans take charge one more time, WE the PEOPLE,
    will be left HIGH AND DRY!. "Bag of tricks", that is what they are. They
    think the American people are stupid and will believe their lies.

    Just watch out, many Republicans will do the same as Specter,
    one of them win in an election, We, are dealing with a leader
    that did not or will not be a different person or change his or her

    I don't trust the Republican Party and think this is all "planned"
    for attention. They have lost their mojo, and they know it, so
    what else they going to do to draw attention. This is another
    game of theirs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 28, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  13. DaBird

    We need term limits. PA voters are not too bright with the $150 million John Murtha Airport that services 20 passengers a day. Both parties are corrupt.

    April 28, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. Sharon Kitchen

    this will be a good race.
    welcome Sen. Spector.

    April 28, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. xargaw

    I think most Democrats and many Independents would vote for ANY Democrat over Arlen. This move is a transparent last ditch effort to save a drowning political career. Arlen has been a continual thorn in the side of Democrats, acting on many occasions like he would vote with the Democrats, only to cave to the GOP partyline at the last minute. Arlen, we know you and we don't like what we know.

    April 28, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  16. Don

    As a democrat, I hope Specter just goes away. This is a joke and the only reason he changed sides is because he wants to hold onto his job. This is about him..not the American people. Get a clue and vote this joker out. Democrats...do not fall for this. Vote in a real democrat. Not someone playing politics to win an election.

    April 28, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. Abby

    if he votes with us until the elcetion, we will help him win. I am thinkingof sending him a 'thank you' check now.

    April 28, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. Robert Lee

    All I can say to Spector, is welcome.

    April 28, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
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