Specter, Sestak fight over their credentials as Democrats

The senator goes after a potential challenger, hinting he's a fake Democrat, and bad citizen to boot

By Gabriel Winant
Published July 10, 2009 2:35PM (EDT)

Say this for Sen. Arlen Specter: When the guy falls for a new party, he falls hard. Specter, the erstwhile Republican seeking reelection as a Democrat in Pennsylvania, is going after likely Democratic primary rival Rep. Joe Sestak for, of all sins, insufficient party loyalty.

“Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress," Specter said in a statement. "His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process.” In a tweet sent Thursday, Specter asked of his rival's voting record, "Is this the record of a 'true Democrat,' @JoeSestak?"

In a statement of his own, Sestak reiterated that he had remained registered as an independent because he believed that partisan registration was inappropriate for a military officer, and said his apparent record of political non-participation is a result of uncounted absentee ballots.

There’s no way of really telling if Sestak is telling the truth here, but is this really a fight Specter wants to pick? He’s pretty much inviting responses like the one Sestak made:

We've learned today that Arlen Specter can abandon his party, but he just cant quit making Republican swift-boat attacks on the integrity of Democrats who served in our military. My question to Arlen Specter is this: do you regret voting for George Bush and John McCain? Why should Democrats support someone like you who actively campaigned as recently as last year for politicians with values like George W. Bush?

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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