(Harrisburg) — Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican-turned-Democrat who played a key role in many Supreme Court nominations, has died. He was 82.
His son Shanin Specter says his father died Sunday morning at his home in Philadelphia, from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He had battled cancer and other health problems.
Specter served 30 years in the Senate, a Pennsylvania record.
In April 2009, he startled fellow senators when he announced he was switching to the Democratic side because he did not think he could win the nomination for a sixth term in the increasingly conservative GOP. He wound up losing the 2010 Democratic primary to then-Rep. Joe Sestak, who narrowly lost Specter's seat to conservative Pat Toomey.
Specter was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee before the Democrats regained power in 2007. He was also one of three Republicans to vote for President Obama's stimulus bill in 2009.
In light of his passing, friends and colleagues are remembering Specter.
President Obama released the following statement on Specter's death:
"Arlen Specter was always a fighter. From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve. He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others. When he announced that his cancer had returned in 2005, Arlen said, "I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I'm going to beat this, too." Arlen fought that battle for seven more years with the same resolve he used to fight for stem-cell research funding, veterans health, and countless other issues that will continue to change lives for years to come. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the rest of the Specter family."
Governor Corbett has the following to say about the late Specter:
“For more than five decades, Arlen Specter lived a life devoted to public service on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania and the United States. Pennsylvania has lost a political figure whose career stretched from Philadelphia's City Hall to the chambers of the U.S. Senate. We are saddened to hear of his death.”
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is also memorializing the longtime Senator.
Rendell says Specter did more for the people of the commonwealth over more than three decades than anyone, "with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin.''
In a statement, Rendell calls Specter a "mentor, colleague and a political institution," and said, on a personal level, Specter was "my first boss." Rendell served as an assistant prosecutor when Specter was Philadelphia's district attorney.
Rendell also called Specter "a champion for veterans across our state and beyond'' and said he "will be deeply missed.''
Specter's fellow Senate colleague from Pennsylvania, Senator Bob Casey, Jr. also released the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened to learn that my friend Arlen Specter has passed away. I had the honor and privilege of working with him in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania. Arlen was a statesman and a problem solver who was able to work with Democrats and Republicans in the best interest of our Commonwealth and our Country. Arlen fought cancer courageously and his enduring legacy of support for the National Institutes of Health will help countless Americans as they battle cancer and other ailments. My thoughts and prayers are with Joan, Shanin, Stephen and his entire family.”
*This article has been amended to include statements from President Obama, Governor Corbett, former Governor Ed Rendell, and U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. regarding Specter's death.
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