Specter, Democrats Push in Pennsylvania, but Republicans Have Hope

Obama, Specter hope to avoid a messy primary. Guess again.

John Mashek
By + More

PHILADELPHIA—Sen. Arlen Specter is busy wooing Keystone State Democrats in earnest, trying to convince them he is really one of them. The party should listen in earnest because former Republican Specter will do what is best for him as he has throughout his long career.

President Obama, Gov. Edward Rendell, and other top Democrats are attempting to discourage any challenger in the party primary next spring. Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired flag officer in the Navy with a fine record in the House, intends to challenge Specter despite the strong arm of powerful figures.

Specter should not be given a free pass, because he hasn't earned it. His switch to the Democratic Party earlier this year was made largely because he could not win in the GOP primary. He said so in his announcement.

Specter will doubtless raise stacks more money than Sestak, who represents a suburban district outside Philadelphia. Still, Sestak has every right to test the credentials of the late-arrival Democrat.

The situation with Specter isn't the only issue stirring Democratic politics in Washington or Harrisburg and giving Republicans at least some hope in this blue state.

(My usually angry Republican readers should read on, since they never seem to find anything wrong with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the untouchable Rush Limbaugh.)

In the capital, Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown, Pa., is under fire in the Washington Post for his zealotry in bringing questionable goodies to his district. A rarely used modern airport just 60 miles from Pittsburgh is just one of them.

Jack Murtha was first elected in a special election in 1974, the first special election after the Watergate scandal was erupting in the Nixon White House. I covered that race and found Murtha to be an engaging young politician with good instincts. He's been re-elected every two years since winning that race.

As he bounced up in seniority, Murtha has become a more arrogant figure. He lost a race for majority leader in 2002 to Rep. Steney Hoyer of Maryland, although he had the declared support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Murtha's bullying tactics had hurt him deeply with his Democratic colleagues and the result was embarrassing to him and Pelosi.

In Harrisburg, meanwhile, former state Rep. Vincent Fumo, the power in the House appropriations committee, is awaiting sentencing. He was convicted on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy.

During Democratic and Republican administrations alike in the state capital, Fumo has been a terror in dominating the money appropriations. Legislators were usually run over if they got in his way. Few are shedding tears that he will be spending a few years behind bars.

Returning to Specter, a Republican consultant once said of him: "Arlen can be an SOB, but at least he's our SOB."

Now he's the SOB for the Democrats to handle here and in Washington.

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