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April 02, 2004

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Between  1976 and 1998, Senator Arlen Specter has faced primary after primary.  Some of his opponents have been worthy... others, less so. We looked at Specter's Senatorial and Gubernatorial runs, starting in 1976, and ranked his primary opponents. 

 

Tier One

 

 

Richard Thornburgh (1978): As the only western Pennsylvania candidate in the race, Thornburgh handily defeated Arlen Specter in the 1978 contest for governor to replace the retiring Milton Shapp, garnering 323,349 votes, (32%) to Specter's 206,802, (20%).  Thornburgh, the former U.S. Attorney, went on to win the general election, spending what was than considered an extravagant amount of about $4 million, defeating Pittsburgh Mayor,  Democrat Pete Flaherty.

 

 

John Heinz (1976):  With the open seat of the retiring Senator Hugh Scott, Specter, then the former Philadelphia District Attorney, faced the popular western Pennsylvania Congressman John Heinz in the 1976 Senatorial primary.  Heinz won by three points, with 358,715 votes to Specter's 332,513.  Although bitter primary opponents, Specter and Heinz grew close once Specter was elected to the Senate in 1980.  Regardless, Heinz was one of the toughest primary opponents Specter has ever faced.

 

 

Robert Butera (1978): The former Southeastern state Representative and House Republican Floor Leader finished just two points behind Arlen Specter, capturing 190,653 votes in the 1978 GOP gubernatorial primary. 

 

 

David Marston (1978): Marston stock rose after President Jimmy Carter fired this U.S. Attorney with the change of administration, however, he only garnered 161,813 (16%) in the 1978 GOP gubernatorial  primary.  A year later, Marston won the GOP nomination but lost the race for Mayor of Philadelphia.

 

 

Harold "Bud" Haabestad (1980):  Haabestad came within 37,000 votes of winning the open-seat primary for Richard Schweiker's  Senate seat in 1980.  Haabestad was the GOP's endorsed candidate and the former GOP State Chairman.  It was one of the few times the Pennsylvania GOP lost a battle with their endorsed candidate.

 

 

 

 

Tier Two

 

Steve Freind (1992):  Faced with a difficult re-election to his state House seat, the ardently pro-life Delaware County state Representative drew 35% against Specter, in what turned out to be a nasty, personal campaign.  During a primary debate with Specter, Freind notoriously drew attention to his own Christianity - in a none-too-subtle effort to compare himself to Specter.  Even some pro-lifers had a hard time sticking to Freind after that.  But Freind's real trouble was that he was unable to raise enough money to seriously compete with Specter.  Later in that year (dubbed the political  "year of the woman"), Specter won with only 49% against Lynn Yeakel.

 

 

Richard Stokes (1986): The conservative Carlisle schoolteacher won a quarter of the vote in the 1986 Senatorial primary, despite complete anonymity and no campaign. The Stokes showing convinced Specter opponents that any candidate would start with 25% of the vote.

 

 

George Packard (1976): The local newspaper editor won 160,379 votes (19%) in the 1976 GOP primary, finishing behind Heinz and Specter.

 

 

Tom Lingenfelter (1998): The conservative Bucks county gadfly garnered 15% in the 1998 GOP Senate primary.  Lingenfelter's career high point: winning 40% against incumbent Congressman Jim Greenwood in 1996.  To his credit, Lingenfelter hustled, but could not put together an organization or fundraising machine.

 

 

Ed Howard (1980): The pro-choice Bucks County State Senator won 13% in the 1980 Senatorial primary and later became Specter's trusted friend and advisor.

 

 

Larry Murphy (1998):  The only African American to challenge Specter in a GOP primary, Murphy garnered 18% against Specter, and spent less than $3000.  A drug researcher from Chester County, Murphy said he decided to run against Specter because he felt the Senator was too liberal for the party on such issues as affirmative action and abortion.  Murphy used his one chance at media coverage to against homosexuals and the United Nations, helping propel him into political obscurity.  Murphy was one of Specter's more articulate opponents, but not much else. 

 

 

 

 

Tier Three

 

Henry Hager (1978): Despite serving as Republican Leader of the State Senate,  Hager won only 6% in the 1978 GOP primary (34,396 votes) qualifying as one of Arlen Specter's least credible primary campaign opponents.

 

 

Andrew Watson (1978):  Watson, a Harrisburg farmer and businessman, finished the 1978 primary with 5% of the GOP vote, or 33,265 votes. 

 

 

Alvin Jacobson (1978):  Jacobson, an insurance executive, finished the 1978 primary with just 1% of the GOP vote, or 7,374 votes. 

 

The 1978 Gubernatorial Primary had a crowded field, and included the following candidates who came in at the bottom:

Lewis Richards, machinist and machine shop owner from Pittston, Luzerne County

Francis Worley, The perennial candidate served in the State House in the 1940's into the 1960's.  In 1997, Worley ran for governor in the Republican Primary against Governor Tom Ridge.  Attending his announcement speech:  his campaign treasurer, his treasurer's wife, his housekeeper and two reporters covering the event.

Warren Williams, research engineer and chemist from Susquehanna County

Norman Bertasavage, insurance salesman from Schuylkill County.  Bertasavage later went on to run for President of the United States in 1992, garnering 23 votes the New Hampshire Primary.  (George H. W. Bush won that Primary, with more than 92,000 votes.)