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Former Sen. Arlen Specter hospitalized with serious illness

August 28, 2012|By Colby Itkowitz | This post has been updated, as indicated below.
  • Former Sen. Arlen Specter in 1997.
Former Sen. Arlen Specter in 1997. (Luke Frazza / AFP )

Arlen Specter, the storied Pennsylvania politician who was a state institution for decades before switching political parties and losing in a Democratic Senate primary two years ago, is hospitalized with a very serious illness.

Specter, who survived a brain tumor and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, is ailing from another form of cancer that flared up several weeks ago, according to CNN. Several sources at the Republican National Convention who know Specter confirmed that he is very sick.

Specter, 82, famously co-authored the "single-bullet theory" during the investigation into President Kennedy's assassination. A lawyer by trade, he is famous for his interrogation skills and perhaps infamous for his treatment of Anita Hill during a Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

After years of priding himself as a coalition builder in the Senate -- the legislative body he adored -- he voted for the Democrats' 2009 economic stimulus package and, according to his account, became a pariah in the Republican caucus.

Facing a bitter primary challenge from the right by Pat Toomey, Specter switched parties to become a Democrat. Expecting the full weight of the Obama White House to persuade Pennsylvania Democrats to embrace the man they worked against for years, Specter miscalculated.

In 2010, Rep. Joe Sestak -- painting Specter's switch as one of opportunity, not ideology -- beat him in the Democratic primary, ending his three-decade career.

[Updated, 9:17 a.m. PST  Aug. 28]

Late morning Tuesday, Specter's office confirmed to Philly.com in a good-humored, optimistic statement that he does have cancer: "I am battling cancer, and it's another battle I intend to win. I am grateful for the well wishes I have received and I am looking forward to getting back to work, to the comedy stage, the squash court and the ballpark."

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7th district, who worked for Specter in the early 1990s, said at the convention delegation breakfast that he's spoken to some people who had made him aware Specter was in the hospital.

"Arlen Specter has proven to be a fighter and you've watched him come back from a number of real health issues, I just don't know what the prognosis is for this," Meehan said. "Regardless of how his career ended, he's an institution in Pennsylvania. He's been so much a part of the fabric of what has happened not just in Pennsylvania and its politics but really in the country and i think only in retrospect will people look back and see a record of involvement in things that are going to be remarkably significant."

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