The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


October 14, 2012

Valley politicos remember Arlen Specter

SUNBURY — Valley leaders of both major political parties remember long-serving senator Arlen Specter as a man who was loyal to his constituents, no matter his own political affiliation.

A member of the Republican party for 44 years, he became a Democrat in 2009, one of the last and most controversial choices of his political career. He was defeated in the 2010 primary by Joe Sestak, who then lost to Republican Pat Toomey in the general election.

Specter, 82, died Sunday of conditions related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at his Philadelphia home.

“He was a good and faithful public servant,” said Rodger Babnew, chairman of the Northumberland County Democratic Committee. “He served his constituents well and will be missed.”

“I think he had a good career,” said Beth Kremer, chairwoman of the Northumberland County Republican Committee. “I think he did a lot of good things while he was in office. I’m sure he’ll be missed by his family and colleagues.”

Rick Thomas met Specter several times, both as a chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee and as a legislative representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. “In all honesty, it was probably about 50-50 as far as good meetings and bad meetings,” he said.

Specter had a reputation for political independence, and the long-time Republican worked with Democratic groups and causes as frequently as against them. The same was true for his relationship with the Republican establishment.

“Most people who knew him either loved him or hated him in their dealings with him ... but I always respected the man,” Thomas said. Specter was a friend to labor most of the time, and Thomas’ union always knew where it stood with him, he said.

Specter had left his party in 2010 at least in part due to feeling he could not be nominated in the increasingly conservative Republican party, a belief that Thomas shared. “Truly, he was one of the last moderate Republicans,” he said. “He will be missed as a legislator and person both. I liked the guy.”

“He served our area for a long time and did a lot,” said Joseph Kantz, chairman of the Snyder County Republican Committee and chairman of the Snyder County commissioners.

“As someone who has only been involved in local politics for less than 10 years, the many things he did for our area still show themselves today,” he said.

Malcolm Derk, a fellow Snyder County Republican commissioner, concurred with Kantz. “I had the opportunity to work with him on numerous occasions. The one thing I will certainly remember is his commitment to constituents’ services.”

Specter personally visited each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties every year and always made sure to give thoughtful, honest answers to questions, Derk said.

Several times, Specter assisted with grants that benefited Snyder County, such as one that procured emergency communications equipment.

While many people likely will remember him for his switch of parties, Kantz said, that is not the only thing worth remembering about Specter.

Derk recalled how there were several times when a loved one in a constituent’s family needed federal assistance from Specter. “He was able to really assist those people when they needed it most,” he said.


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