Former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican-turned-Democrat who played a key role in many Supreme Court nominations, has died. He was 82. His son Shanin Specter says his father died this morning at home in Philadelphia, from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He had recently announced the return of his cancer and other health problems. Specter served 30 years in the Senate, a Pennsylvania record.
In April 2009, he startled fellow senators when he announced he was switching to the Democratic side because he did not think he could win the nomination for a sixth term in the increasingly conservative GOP. He wound up losing the 2010 Democratic primary to then-Rep. Joe Sestak, who narrowly lost Specter's seat to conservative Pat Toomey. In his forced retirement, however, he proved to be quite a character, writing a book and doing stand-up comedy.