Party Leaders Differ on Specter Switch
Bob Levy calls it good riddance.
Jim Heim says the change is welcome.
That was the reaction of the two chairmen of the county's two political parties, respectively, to an announcement by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter Tuesday that he is switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.
Carole Angle, a Southern Pines resident, sees Specter from an entirely different perspective. To her, he is a former employer.
In some ways, Angle said, Specter's decision to switch parties comes as a surprise, and in other ways she isn't surprised at all.
"I did like Arlen," she said, adding that his decision is an exciting one.
Nor does the switch in parties surprise party leaders here in Moore County.
"I particularly welcome him," said Heim, the Democrats' chairman said. "He is a good man."
Heim said Specter studies issues carefully and makes decisions based on his findings, not on party positions.
Levy, the chairman of the local GOP, called Specter's decision an example of a man who puts his own personal professional career ahead of Republican goals of less government and lower taxes.
Specter, who has served in the Senate since 1980, was one of three Republicans who voted with Democrats to approve President Obama's economic stimulus plan.
"He has decided that his career is more important than having a principled philosophy for guarding the future of the United States," Levy said. "Because of that, the Republican Party will not miss him all that much. We need people who will put principle ahead of political expediency."
Levy said he hopes that the voters of Pennsylvania will replace Specter with a senator with higher principles and a better understanding of the course the United States should take in the future.
However, Heim predicted that Pennsylvania will vote Democratic in the next election. He said Specter's decision gives Democrats a 59th vote, which inches their way toward the 60 votes needed to stave off a GOP filibuster to delay or halt key Democratic bills. If Al Franken wins a contested election in Minnesota, Senate Democrats will achieve that goal.
"Sen. Specter made a good decision," Heim said. "This is a winning deal for all of us."
Heim was interviewed by cell phone in Tucson, Ariz., where he is accompanying his wife, Dr. Lori Heim, for a meeting of the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Heim, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, is president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
'Increasingly at Odds'
The 79-year-old Specter is one of the 12 most senior members of the Senate and the fifth oldest.
On Tuesday Specter announced that he is changing his party affiliation to the Democratic Party. He was candid in admitting fear that he cannot win the Republican primary election when he seeks re-election next year.
"I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party," Specter was quoted as saying at a news conference in Washington Tuesday,
His decision should not have surprised leaders of either party, for records show that Specter was a Democrat in his youth and did not register as a Republican until 1966. Recognized as a moderate, he is known to hold liberal views on such issues as immigration and the environment but is more conservative about crime, national security and firearm ownership.
Despite his repeated re-election since 1980, Specter lost Republican support when he joined two other moderate Republican senators in approving the president's economic stimulus package, the first major legislation of Obama's term.
Angle recalls Specter as a demanding boss who expected the best possible work from his staff.
"It was the greatest learning experience I ever had," Angle said of working for the senator from Pennsylvania.
While working in his office in Washington and later in his campaign office in Pittsburgh, she learned that Specter is a moderate who studies issues carefully and doesn't mind speaking his mind. She worked for Specter for two and a half years.
"I was a Democrat, and he was a Republican," she says, adding that the difference in registration did not appear to matter at the time. "I spoke my mind, and we had some interesting discussions. I was very fortunate to have that experience, because he let you learn while working for him."
Her work in Specter's offices was her first experience "on the Hill," a place where new employees can expect no formal training for this specialized work. She did a variety of jobs in the Washington office and in Pittsburgh for his re-election campaign in 1986.
Angle also worked for two other Republicans in Washington, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.
"It was quite a jolt to go from one extreme to another," she says of the difference between Specter and Brownback.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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