WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter announced Tuesday he is switching parties from Republican to Democrat and will seek re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
"I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," Specter said in a statement posted on the PoliticsPA Web site.
Specter was one of only three congressional members to vote for President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan, a vote he said led to irreconcilable differences with party leaders.
Specter's decision would nudge Democrats closer to a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Democrats would reach the magic number if Democrat Democrat Al Franken is sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota. Former senator Norm Coleman has challenged Franken's razor-thin victory in the state Supreme Court.
Specter said he would not be an automatic party-line voter.
Specter, a Republican since 1966, said he regrets disappointing his friends and supporters, but noted "I am also disappointed that so many in the party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate." He was expected to face a difficult GOP primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey.
"On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my 29-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," he said. "I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary."
He said he decided this "complicated run for re-election" because of concern about the country "and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research."
"I have not represented the Republican Party," he said. "I have represented the people of Pennsylvania."