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. Rick CT

    Stay in the race, Joe. A fresh face is far preferable to an aging insider liar.

    April 28, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  2. AnnMM

    I hope Torsella bows out. He's not going to get the Democratic support he thinks he is.

    April 28, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    Good luck Sen. Specter! I hope you win by a landslide in the primary and in the general in Nov.!

    April 28, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. Crites

    I love it. Spector said that his views are more in line with the Democrat Party than the Republican party. Given the extreme left turn the Democrat Party has taken recently, it must mean he has been waiting over there.

    April 28, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Ken

    Congratulations on a GREAT move – you care more about the country than you do about Rush and Hannity!!

    April 28, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. ppeterson

    Specter is a coward. he is just afraid that he might get his clock cleaned in a Republican primary so he's running away and pandering to keep his paycheck.

    April 28, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. obama/mama

    He's got my vote.

    April 28, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  8. WIlly Brown

    Watch out old goat. AL Franken is moving to the Key Stone stae if he can't steal the election in Minnesota.

    April 28, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  9. fella from Chicago

    So much for the democractic process. Specter is now one of the Dems "good old boys".

    April 28, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. Enlightened Voter

    Spector has my vote, I live in PA. As a staunch PROUD LIBERAL DEM i have always voted for Spector (the only republican i have ever voted for) because he was moderate and seemed like he cared about the people a very unrepublican trait.

    April 28, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  11. The Broker.

    I have no doubt's, he will lose. He has no real substance.

    April 28, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  12. Sylvia

    I pray Spector LOSES

    April 28, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. Larry

    I think I'll move to Penn. just to vote for Specter

    Great move Arlen ... Welcome to the Democratic party

    April 28, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. Ken

    Specter should RETIRE!

    We need to have TERM LIMITS for Senators and Congressman !

    We need to start bring in new and younger blood, with new ideals and those that will work for the American people and not for themselves!

    April 28, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Gop For America

    See we have these liberals that want to think Specter for coming to their party. Nevertheless, had he been a Democrat and jump ship to the Republican Party they call him every nasty name in the book.

    Democrats show their true self when we see Politian’s change parties. They believe only they are enlightened and any one that is a republican is just a right wing fundamentalist.

    The fact is the Democrats party have been taken over by extreme socialist that want nothing more then to kill off freedoms and liberty.

    Obama is the leader of these extreme socialist hell bent on making this a 3rd world nation. And thank you Mr. Specter you just gave him the power to make it happen just so you could have a better chance at winning your next election. I guess that is the price you put on your soul.

    April 28, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. MJHS1967

    Specter will survive! 🙂 His only probles was the Democratic presidential primary in 2008. With the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama still raging last April, hundreds of thousands of moderate Republicans in Pennsylvania switched registration to vote in the Democratic primary.

    Most of these people normally voted for Specter. Now they are officially Democrats.

    With a big primary looming on the Democratic side in 2010, probably most of them will remain Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary.

    April 28, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  17. phoenix86

    Specter is the worst kind of politician. He leaves the Republican party because he faces certain defeat in its primary to compete against a weaker democratic challenger.

    Specter's decision was only trying to benefit Specter and had nothing to do with party ideology.

    We have become a Third World nation.

    April 28, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  18. Tony

    Both Dems should still run...Specter knew he was going to lose to Toomey. Time for these fossils to retire. What a disgrace.

    April 28, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. carlo

    I don't know about this other guy, but I guess after battling the illnesses he has battled, Spector is showing real courage under enormous pressure and fire. For that, he at least deserves consideration.

    April 28, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |

    WHAT! A Republican is a Republican is a Republican.

    Spector knows he is not popular to win, so he's changing colors.

    HE IS NOT A DEMOCRAT!!!! He is switching sides because he
    knows he can't win against THE DEMOCRAT. Now, he wants to
    become a Democrat?

    Just watch all the REPUBLICAN A–Holes switch to Independent or
    Democrat just because their own party has made a–es of themselves.

    Remember, Voters, It is NOT what they call themselves, it is what
    they believe in. A PIG with lipstick is still a PIG!

    April 28, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. Be The Smart Party

    It is vital that Democrats own this seat after the 2010 election.

    I'm not yet convinced that Arlen Specter is our best chance to do that. He get's no points for being an "experienced" member of Congress, particularly when he is so long in the tooth. How many more terms are we going to get out of this guy?

    Specter must demonstrate his loyalty and his ability to win the final election to garner our support for his re-election.

    April 28, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  22. Gary

    I just want politicians that will help this country grow strong again. Spector is a good guy but this latest stimulus bill was just wrong. financial and ethically.

    We need americans to work more, save more, spend less, conserve more energy and borrow less. The federal government needs to stop promising people free stuff and stop deficit spending.

    April 28, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  23. Judy from PA

    It's sad that he switched because he would lose the Republican primary to Toomey. Eveyone knew it, he knew it, so he switched to the Democrat side. What a wuss.

    April 28, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. Rebo

    The only reason he switch his because his state is going blue its a bunch of bolony without question. After all this time he wants switch please. So tell me when are the elections again.

    April 28, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. walleye

    Why didnt we hear the RepubliKlans griping a few years ago when Ben Nighthorse Campbell switched partys from Dem to Rep. The GOP is so lopsided and hypocritical in their views you can smell them out even before they open their angry mouths.

    April 28, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
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