Sunday, April 19, 2015

One instructive Arlen story

Over the years, many wondered how Arlen Specter managed to stay in office given his penchant for angering just everybody; here's just one example.

One instructive Arlen story

Throughout his decades in the Senate -- we tend to forget the number of elections he lost: DA, Mayor, Senator, Governor, President -- many in politics often wondered how someone who routinely angered people at all points on the political spectrum managed to keep winning reelection.

Here's just one story that helps explain.

Seeking his first reelection in 1986, Arlen shows up at Pittsburgh's old Three Rivers Stadium to attend a reception in the Allegheny Club hosted by the team-owning Rooney family before a Steelers game.

He brings a sign, "Specter for Senate," but is told the Rooney's don't allow political signs in the stadium.

So Arlen pulls then-Allegheny County Commissioner Barbara Hafer, a Republican, aside and says something like, "Introduce me to some people."

Hafer, who'd later serve in statewide office and run unsuccessfully for Governor in 1990, dutifully starts going to various tables introducing other guests to Specter.

By the second table, Arlen pulls her aside and says, "Not in here, out there," pointing to the large, loud hometown crowd.

He hands her the sign, suggests the Rooneys would never toss a county commissioner and starts walking around. For the whole first half. Some in crowd yell "Down in Front." Some yell, "Hey, Arlen!" Some just boo.

Yet, there he is, an incumbent U.S. Senator, slogging through Three Rivers Stadium doing fan-to-fan campaigning, Rooney sign-ban or not, Allegheny Club invite or not, ongoing football game or not.

The story reflects an innate tenacity that drove Specter throughout his life and made him a ferocious political opponent whether in debates or on campaign trails.

No matter what you think of his career or record, it's hard to deny his tenacity, or the fact he earned all that he got.

Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
Also on
Stay Connected