For most of his 30 years as Pennsylvania's longest-serving U.S. senator and prominent moderate in Congress, Arlen Specter was a Republican, though often at odds with the GOP leadership.
He helped end the Supreme Court hopes of former federal appeals Judge Robert H. Bork, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Decades later, he was one of only three Republicans in Congress to vote for President Barack Obama's economic stimulus.
His breaks with his party were hardly a surprise: He had begun his political career as a Democrat and ended it as one, too.
In between, he was at the heart of several major American political events. He rose to prominence in the 1960s as an assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, developing the single-bullet theory in President John F. Kennedy's assassination. He came to the Senate in the Reagan landslide of 1980 and was a key voice in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of both Bork and Clarence Thomas.
Specter died Sunday died at his home in Philadelphia from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, said his son Shanin. He was 82. Over the years, Specter had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin lymphoma, overcome a brain tumor and survived cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.
In the end, Specter voted for the Affordable Care Act as a Democrat before losing to Joe Sestak in the primary two years ago, but he was 80 even then. It was a long career of service, and while his votes weren't always something I agreed with, he was the last of his breed: the moderate Republican.
Compared to the Republicans in the Senate now? I'd rather have 42 Arlen Specters.