Arlen Specter, the former Pennsylvania senator who switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party, was hospitalized on August 27 and has been diagnosed with cancer. Specter’s office confirmed his illness but would not elaborate on what kind of cancer he has.
“I’m battling cancer,” Specter, 82, said in a statement. “It’s another battle I intend to win. I’m grateful for all the well-wishes I’ve received. I’m looking forward to getting back to work, to the comedy stage, to the squash court and to the ballpark.” The comedy stage remark was in reference to a number of stand-up routines Specter did at comedy clubs in Philadelphia and New York City following his exit from the Senate.
A moderate Republican, Specter often dissented from his party’s platforms, supporting abortion rights, affirmative action, and most gay rights issues, although he is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Early in his career, Specter served as assistant counsel for the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In a still-controversial finding, Specter helped craft what is known as the single-bullet theory, which contended that Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally, riding in the same car, were hit by the same bullet.
Specter became the district attorney of Philadelphia in 1965, a position he held until losing reelection in 1973.He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980, serving five terms before deciding to join the Democrats on April 28, 2009, citing what he perceived as the Republican Party’s shift to the far right. He lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak, who was defeated in the general election by Pat Toomey.
This is not the first health ordeal for Specter, who successfully fought a brain tumor and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 2005. After three years in remission, the cancer returned in 2008 in a form “significantly less advanced than his Hodgkin’s disease when it was originally diagnosed in 2005,” according to a statement made at the time. Specter’s Senate colleague John Sununu (R-N.H.) shaved his head in 2008 as a sign of solidarity with Specter, who lost his hair from chemotherapy.
Various news reports would not confirm the type of cancer Specter has, but several sources used phrases such as “serious illness” and “big flare-up” in reference to his disease.
Specter has been married to his wife Joan since 1956 and has two sons.