The funeral of former Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), 82, was yesterday, and for 29 years he was one of the vanishing breed of liberal Republicans. Specter left the GOP after the stimulus vote when his own poll indicated he would lose a Republican primary. He should have known better when he cut a deal with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
When Specter switched, there were many articles indicating this signaled the end for Pennsylvania Republicans. Fortunately they were wrong. In 2010, the GOP recaptured Specter’s seat, the Governorship and five Congressional Districts.
This September 1980 photo was from a very unusual campaign. It was one of the few times a Democrat ran to the right of the Republican. Specter’s opponent was former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty, who had switched from Republican to Democrat, while Specter had switched from Democrat to Republican.
Flaherty had been elected Mayor after criticizing the Democrats unbalanced budget. He attacked labor unions, opposed busing, balanced the budget and was to the right of Specter on social issues. Flaherty cut the city’s payroll from over 7,000 to less than 5,000, and repeatedly cut property and wage taxes.
We know Specter’s vote was needed to ensure the first GOP Senate majority since 1954, but we do wish there more fiscally conservative Democrats like Flaherty.