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Pennsylvanians remember Arlen Specter

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 14 2012 05:00:39 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 15 2012 09:43:28 AM CDT

Locals react to Arlen Specter death

In Washington, he was known by some as "Snarlin Arlen" for his often-times gruff demeanor, but to many in Pennsylvania, he was a respected politician.

"I'm really kind of shocked," said one.

"I thought he was going to live forever, because it's a name I've heard forever," said another.

Specter passed away Sunday from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to Specter's son. He was 82.

"I think he was a great politician. Helped the state, helped Philadelphia when he was the D.A." Philip May said.

"I think he stood up for what he believed in; he didn't care about labels," Carol Kranitz added.

A year ago, 69 News visited Specter in his Philadelphia law office to talk about the growing political discourse in Washington.

"I would attribute the problems of Washington to the non-voters who've allowed extremists to dominate the government," Specter said then.

Specter was no stranger to Berks County or the Lehigh Valley. In August 2008, Specter toured Allentown's communication center and joked about his re-occurring battle with cancer.

"Lot of people writing to me saying since I shaved my head like Bruce Willis, I'm now a sex symbol," Specter said.

In Reading, the transitional housing unit at the Opportunity House is named in honor of Arlen Specter and his wife, Joan, for their dedication to the shelter.

For decades, Specter was a symbol of political success.

"I think people liked him. I'm a Democrat, so I think his views were moderate," Wendy Susten said.

"He was always more liberal than I am. He was known as being a switch hitter," another person told us.

"I wasn't worried what party he ran with, other than he was good at what he did. I admired him for that," a resident confided.

Known for reaching across the party lines, Specter switched in 2009, fearing a strong challenge from the right. But his political clout caved. Specter lost to then-Rep Joe Sestak in the primary. Republicans won out in the general election.

"I think he did good work for our state.  I think he will be missed," Susten added.

For those who want to hear more from Specter, he did release a book last spring called "Life Among Cannibals." In it, he talked about the uprising of the tea party, how Washington has changed and how some Senators behaved in the Congressional locker rooms.