U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter says African-Americans should vote for him in the Democratic primary because he fully supports President Obama and his opponent has less experience and cannot beat likely Republican candidate Pat Toomey.

TOUTING EXPERIENCE —U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter tells the New Pittsburgh Courier editorial board that his history of support for civil rights and education gives him the edge over his primary election opponent, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

“I beat him before and I’ll beat him again,” Specter told the Courier editorial board. “I’m running to help President Obama carry out his agenda.”

In 2004, Specter—then a Republican, narrowly defeated Pat Toomey in the Republican primary after President George W. Bush campaigned for him. Last year, Specter returned to the Democratic Party after polls showed he would not win a similar primary contest, especially after he voted for the $1 trillion stimulus package. Specter said he didn’t leave the Republicans, they left him.

“For decades I tried to bring moderation to the party, but they made it clear that’s not what they want,” he said. “That vote was the biggest of my career and I thought it was needed to avoid a 1920s-style depression. That one vote out of 10,000 created irreconcilable differences between me and the Republican Party.”

Specter also wanted Black voters to remember that his record includes voting to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, a history of promoting African-Americans in public office and to the Supreme Court, and that he torpedoed the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork.

His opponent in the primary, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak,  supports all the issues Specter has adopted since returning to the Democratic Party; union card check, legalization of illegal aliens, a public option for health insurance, and a carbon tax on energy to reduce global warming.

When asked about his health care vote, Specter called the bill “historic,” adding that if health insurance providers continue to raise rates—as some did within hours of President Obama signing the new insurance law—the public option may be required.

“I was for a robust public option,” he said. “If they continue to raise, we’ll have to go to the public option—there’s still time to change (the law.)

As for his opponent, Specter said Sestak has done nothing but criticize him and make unsubstantiated charges that he was offered a bribe by President Obama to drop his primary challenge.

“When I was a prosecutor in Philadelphia and someone made a charge like that, I’d be in their face asking questions. I’d be asking for details. So far, no one’s heard any. My opponent has done one thing though, he’s missed 127 votes, the most of any congressman in the state.”

Specter, is still polling 20 points ahead of Sestak in the latest Franklin and Marshal poll. Though neither he nor Sestak have released their first quarter fundraising numbers yet, Specter said he had “about twice as much” as Toomey, who said his first quarter total was more than $4 million.

“I’m going to need about $30 million to beat Toomey in the fall,” he said.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com)

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