PHILADELPHIA — Sen. Arlen Specter on a rainy Tuesday morning cast perhaps his most important Democratic vote since bolting the Republican Party last year, voting for himself over Rep. Joe Sestak in a battle for the Democratic Senate nomination that was too close to call heading into primary day.
Specter voted before a throng of local and national media at a polling station in his upscale East Falls neighborhood, which is also home to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D). The 80 year-old, five-term incumbent was hoping to stave off the surging Sestak, who voted earlier Tuesday in his suburban Philadelphia House district.
“Every vote counts,” Specter said, as he and his wife Joan stepped into polling booths.
In a brief question-and-answer session prior to voting, Specter acknowledged the anti-incumbent mood sweeping the electorate. But he predicted that his lengthy record of crossing party lines to vote with the Democrats while he was still a Republican would help him survive in the current atmosphere.
“The public is fed up with the gridlock in Washington. But I fought that gridlock for my entire tenure in the Senate,” Specter said, adding about his vote for President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, which he supported before becoming a Democrat. “I simply refused to stay with the obstructionist Republican caucus.”
Specter hit Sestak for taking a statement he made about getting re-elected out of context. In the devastating Sestak television spot, Specter appears to say that he switched parties to get re-elected. Specter mentioned the subject without being prompted by reporters.
“It is odd that Sestak has taken my statement out of context of my wanting to be re-elected because the full statement was, I wanted to be re-elected to keep my job to get jobs for thousands of Pennsylvanians,” Specter explained.
Voting was light at Specter’s polling place, at least in the run-up to the Senator’s arrival and while he was in the booth. The incumbent Democrat has a few more public events planned to encourage voter turnout. Specter is scheduled to spend Tuesday evening at a Sheraton hotel in downtown Philadelphia.
“If my vote comes out, I will win,” he said.