[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/18/art.getty.arlen.specter.jpg caption="Pennsylvania Democratic Party lines up behind Specter."]
Washington (CNN) - Though he was a Republican for 44 years before switching parties last April, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter scored a big political win over the weekend by securing the backing of the state Democratic Party.
At a meeting of the state party executive committee in Lancaster on Saturday, Specter won an impressive 77 percent of the committee vote.
The endorsement is a symbolic victory for Specter in his Democratic primary battle against Rep. Joe Sestak – the former Navy admiral running to Specter's left – and will help protect Specter from critics who have questioned his commitment to the party.
Specter and Sestak will face off in a May 18 primary; the winner will likely face Republican Pat Toomey in the general election.