Arlen Specter Wore Independence on Sleeve

Took on Leaders of Both Parties in Long Political Career

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By JTA

Published October 16, 2012.
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“I remember standing in the Senate reception room waiting for him to vote and thanking him at times, and expressing disappointment at other times,” she said. “Many times I got to thank him.”

As the political climate grew more polarized, Specter found himself assailed by the left and the right. In 2004 he barely fended off a Republican primary challenge from his right by Rep. Pat Toomey.

Five years later, realizing he would likely not be able to beat Toomey again, Specter switched parties, saying the GOP had “moved far to the right.” Yet the Democratic Party proved no more welcoming; he lost in the 2010 primary to Rep. Joe Sestak, who in turn was defeated by Toomey in the general election.

The Jewish affiliates of both parties issued statements commemorating Specter’s career. Each emphasized different aspects of his career – the National Jewish Democratic Council called him a “crucial voice of moderation” and the Republican Jewish Coalition said he was a “staunch supporter of Israel.”

But the groups echoed one another in describing Specter’s higher calling: The RJC noted that he was a “devoted public servant,” and the NJDC called him a “consummate public servant.”


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