By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, the outspoken Pennsylvania centrist whose switch from Republican to Democrat ended a 30-year career in which he played a pivotal role in several Supreme Court nominations, died Sunday. He was 82. (see related story)
Many prominent Philadelphians and U.S. politicians shared their memories and expressed their sadness over his passing. (see related story)
PHOTOS: Arlen Specter Through The Years
Congressman Pat Meehan, a former aide to the senator, says his legacy is far-reaching.
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of a man whose contributions to our region and to our nation has been extensive. He will be remembered as one of the more influential leaders of the last 30 to 40 years,” Meehan says.
Meehan was managing Specter’s campaign in 1992 when he faced heated opposition from women voters over his questioning of Anita Hill, just one of the political challenges he overcame.
Meehan says he followed his conscience, even though it cost him his seat, two years ago.
“I think he did what he thought was right in his heart. My sense is he would make those same votes again. He went down, so to speak, swinging for the things that were important to him,” Meehan explains.
Congressman Bob Brady says he used to ride the train with Specter and found the senator tireless. Even after Specter lost his seat, Brady says, he continued to work for the region.
“He had great personal relationships with a lot of people that were in office and great personal relationships with people on both sides of the aisle and when you do a lot of good, even when you’re out of office, people still recognize that and respect you and when you champion a cause, they answer those calls,” Brady says.
Brady notes Specter had many comebacks, both politically and from illness.
“He fought a lot of tough battles and unfortunately, he just couldn’t get past this one. This is a sad day for Philadelphia, for Pennsylvania and for the United States of America,” Brady declares.
Former congressman Joe Sestak ended Specter’s career in the senate, defeating him in the democratic primary in 2010. Sestak says Specter was a fierce opponent.
“He was somebody that made you work so when I say it was an honor to be out there in the arena with the best, I meant it. He set a standard that probably won’t ever be achieved for Pennsylvania again,” Sestak explains.
Sestak says, though, Specter was gracious in defeat, supporting him once he became the candidate. Sestak also praised his support for cancer research, which helped Sestak’s own daughter when she developed a brain tumor at the age of four.
“He was the strongest of advocates for the national institutes of health and because of the funding he placed there, thousands of people, including my daughter, are here today,” says Sestak.
Mayor Nutter has also expressed his condolences, saying the senator’s “door and resources were always open” to the city.
Many others have issued statements. Former governor Ed Rendell, ho worked for Specter in the D.A.’s office, noted his work on behalf of veterans.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell says former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter did more for the people of Pennsylvania 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.”
On a personal level, he said, 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.”
Statement by President Barack Obama on the passing of Arlen Specter:
”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.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) gave this statement on the passing of his former colleague in the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter:
“In a time when Washington D.C. is badly divided, we need bridge builders. Arlen Specter was foremost among them. For many of his years in the U.S. Senate, he was a Republican and later on a Democrat. Regardless of which party Arlen caucused with, he sought to bring Democrats and Republicans together to get things done for our country. It was a privilege to serve with him in the Senate and to know him as a friend and as a neighbor. We miss him. I send my very deepest sympathy to his wife, Joan, and his family on their loss and on ours.”
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) issued the following statement on the passing of Sen. Arlen Specter:
“A man of sharp intelligence and dogged determination, Sen. Specter dedicated his life to public service and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His impact on our state and public policy will not be forgotten. My wife Kris and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the entire Specter family.”
Tom Smith, candidate for United States Senate, made the following statement in reaction to the passing of Senator Arlen Specter:
“Today, Saundy and I join Pennsylvanians in mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant. Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Specter’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
Kathy Boockvar, the Democratic Congressional Nominee, released the following statement on the passing of Pennsylvania’s Senator Arlen Specter:
“I am so sad to learn of the loss of Senator Arlen Specter. Senator Specter exemplified public service at its best, always working with Democrats and Republicans to do what he thought was best for our country. Pennsylvanians and all Americans were fortunate to have the Senator as our representative.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Senator’s family and loved ones. We will always be grateful for his service.”
Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn issued the following statement on the passing of Senator Arlen Specter:
“Senator Arlen Specter was a true Pennsylvania institution whose record of fighting for our Commonwealth is unmatched. Senator Specter’s contributions to Pennsylvania and the United States will leave a lasting legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Specter’s family during this difficult time.”
State Senator Daylin Leach issued the following statement on the passing of Senator Arlen Specter:
“Today we mourn the passing of one of the last of the our truly moderate leaders. In an increasingly rigid, polarized time, where it often seems that reaching across the aisle is heresy and even acknowledging the humanity of those who disagree is unacceptable, Arlen Specter embodied a different style of politics.
“Senator Specter called them as he saw them, and based his positions on a thoughtful analysis of the facts, not some allegedly infallible ideology. Sometimes I agreed with his conclusions, sometimes I did not. But I always admired his willingness to listen, to learn, and to change his mind.
“We will miss not only Senator Specter as a man, but we will miss his kind; moderate men and women who weren’t in public service to make a point, but to get things done. These men and women were the glue that held our country together. We will know that our democracy is on the mend when more people like Arlen Specter lead our nation again.”
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the below statement following news that former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has passed away:
”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.”
Specter is survived by his wife, Joan, sons Shanin and Stephen, and four grandchildren.
A funeral service will occur on Tuesday, October 16 at Har Zion Temple at 1500 Hagys Ford Road, Penn Valley, PA and will be open to the public (no camera’s or recording devices). Interment will immediately follow the funeral service and will occur at Shalom Memorial Park at Pine and Byberry Roads in Huntingdon Valley, PA. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Philadelphia University or another charity.
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