Former long-time Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who made a well-publicized switch to the Democratic Party late in his political career, died Sunday morning at the age of 82.
Specter's son Shanin said the former lawmaker died from complications related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma at his home in Philadelphia
A statement from President Barack Obama called Specter a "fighter" who never put "party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve."
"He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others," Obama added.
The statement referenced Specter's two previous bouts of lymphoma and his other health battles, including open-heart surgery and surgery for a brain tumor.
Specter also made headlines in 2009 when he switched to the Democratic Party after serving in Congress for 29 years as a moderate Republican.
The decision largely reflected the belief that Specter would lose the Republican primary to conservative Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn.
However, Specter was unable to win the Democratic nomination in 2010, losing to Congressman Joe Sestak, who went on to lose to Toomey in the general election.
Commenting on Specter's passing, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., said, "A legendary figure in his beloved Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter brought his fierce intellect and a prosecutor's drive to countless battles in the Senate."
"He was a fighter to the end, and Elaine and I send our deepest condolences to Joan and the entire Specter family," he added.
A separate statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Specter a "man of moderation," saying he was "always passionate, but always easy to work with."
"I followed him through his previous illnesses, during the course of which he displayed great physical strength and great strength of character," Reid said. "Throughout his life, Senator Specter fought and won many battles, but this was one he could not win."
He added, "America is better today because of Arlen Specter. He will be dearly missed."
by RTT Staff Writer
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