Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who served five terms in the Senate representing Pennsylvania, has died at the age of 82, The Associated Press reported Sunday.Specter died of complications from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, with which he had a long battle. He first announced he was battling the cancer in 2005 and underwent chemotherapy. But it returned in 2008 and again this August, when he was hospitalized to treat the disease again.
Specter, seen as a political moderate, shocked both sides of the political aisle when he announced in 2009 that he was switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.
“As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party,” Specter said at a news conference announcing his shift.
“In the course of the last several months … I have traveled the state and surveyed the sentiments of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and public opinion polls, observed other public opinion polls and have found that the prospects for winning a Republican primary are bleak.”
But he subsequently lost a re-election bid in the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak, and he left the Senate in 2011.
Here’s President Obama’s 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 tumour, 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.
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