Specter says he'll run in 2010 at age of 80

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, already Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator, wants to hold his post for at least another decade.

The 77-year-old Republican confirmed yesterday that he will run for re-election in 2010, when he turns 80.

   
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Listen to excerpts of Sen. Arlen Specter's comments about his bid for re-election.

   

"There are a lot of important things to be done," he said as he dashed from the Senate floor to attend an event on biomedical research. "I'm full of energy, and my wife doesn't want me home for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

One of the Keystone State's most seasoned political veterans, Mr. Specter hopes to recapture his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he recently oversaw the confirmation of two additions to the Supreme Court -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Mr. Specter had to step down after the Democrats captured Congress in the November election.

He also wants to ascend to the top of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which has enabled him to send millions of dollars in federal money to Pennsylvania.

Mr. Specter cited ballooning costs of modern campaigns as a reason to quickly launch his run for a sixth six-year term. He has a major fund-raising event planned for April 4 in Philadelphia.

He spent just under $22 million in the 2004 race, a number topped two years later by Sen. Rick Santorum's unsuccessful re-election campaign.

"It takes a ton of money to run for the Senate," said Ken Presutti, chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee.

A moderate voice in a GOP that has moved to the right in recent years, Mr. Specter has often angered rank-and-file members of his party with his positions on issues like abortion and stem-cell research. He faced a tough primary challenge in his last re-election campaign, narrowly defeating Rep. Pat Toomey, who currently heads the conservative Club for Growth in Washington.

Mr. Toomey hasn't made a decision about running again, Nachama Soloveichik, communications director for the club, said yesterday.

Democrats, emboldened by Mr. Santorum's defeat, will field a serious challenger. Some liberal groups have attacked Mr. Specter's record on Iraq. The senator has been critical of the war's conduct, but he has been reluctant to call for a withdrawal timeline for U.S. troops.

Mr. Specter also likely will face questions about his health. In 2005, he underwent chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph system. He said doctors have called him "symptom-free."

He still plays squash regularly, including two games last week against a 26-year-old. He declined to say who won.

"My definition of winning is playing and surviving," he said.

Indeed, Mr. Specter is a political survivor. In 1965, he won a race for district attorney as a Republican in overwhelmingly Democratic Philadelphia. The 1970s were marked by losing races for district attorney, governor and senator.

He was elected to the Senate in 1980, and he quickly forged his own political path, upsetting colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He enraged Republicans by helping to defeat the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork in 1987. Five years later, his tough cross-examination of Anita Hill helped salvage the high court nomination of Clarence Thomas, winning back some conservative support but upsetting liberals.

Mr. Presutti said it was too early to make endorsements for the 2010 race, but he offered general praise for Mr. Specter.

"I think the senator has delivered for Pennsylvania," he said.


Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at jsherman@post-gazette.com or 202-488-3479.


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