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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More on "Benedict" Arlen Specter

Contrary to what I said in my March 16 post, Senator Arlen Specter says he won't seek re-election as a Democrat next year. According to The Hill:

"Sen. Arlen Specter said Tuesday that he will not run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat, but might run as an Independent."

[... .]

"At the same time, Specter said he is open to the possibility of running as an Independent with the understanding that he would caucus with Republicans, just as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) did with Democrats in 2006. Though he left that option on the table, he suggested it would be a last resort."

Pennsylvania, unlike Connecticut, has a "sore loser" law, which prohibits someone who has lost a primary from then running as an independent, as Lieberman did. So, if Specter ran as an independent, he would have to do so from the start of the campaign.

"Specter lamented that his home state doesn’t allow for him to run as an Independent if he loses the primary. He also said he supports an upcoming effort to open the primaries to independent voters."

This is evidently referring to the Pennsylvania legislature possibly enacting semi-closed primaries, in which independents are allowed to vote.

In 1986, the U. S. Supreme Court gave parties the right to invite independents to vote in their primaries (Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut).[1] But, to my knowledge, Arizona is the only state that requires parties to allow independents into their primaries.[2] In 2007, a federal court exempted the Libertarians from this law (Arizona Libertarian Party v. Brewer). Thus, if Pennsylvania enacted such a law, it would be vulnerable to a lawsuit from one or more of the state's political parties.

Neither Pennsylvania party invites independents to vote in its primaries, and I believe the parties will use their considerable clout to block an attempt to force them to do so.

In the last Congress, Specter supported the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which takes away the secret ballot in union organizing elections. He's considering voting for it again; if he does, that vote, coming on the heels of his support of the $787 billion "stimulus" bill, would further alienate Specter from the Republicans.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist from Vermont, was also elected as an independent. He and Lieberman both caucus with the Senate Democrats.

A Pennsylvania blog has an interesting analysis of Specter's situation and Governor Ed Rendell's involvement in the Senate race.

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[1] Ironically, Lieberman, as state attorney general, had to defend the Connecticut law that prohibited parties from allowing independents to vote in their primaries.

[2] Because of a state attorney general's opinion, Nebraska independents are allowed to vote in party primaries for Congress. This relates to the fact that independents there are able to vote in the first round of the nonpartisan elections for the state legislature.

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