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Former longtime Democrat, then Republican, and then Democratic again Sen. Arlen Specter has died at the age of 82 after a longtime bout with cancer.One of the few remaining Republican moderates on Capitol Hill at a time when the party had turned sharply to the right, Mr. Specter confounded fellow Republicans at every turn. He unabashedly supported Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, and championed biomedical and embryonic stem cell research long before he received his cancer diagnosis. When he made a bid for the White House in 1995, he denounced the Christian right as an extremist “fringe” — an unorthodox tactic for a candidate trying to win votes in a Republican primary. The campaign was short-lived; Mr. Specter ended it when he ran out of cash. Years later, he said wryly of the other candidates, “I was the only one of nine people in New Hampshire who wanted to keep the Department of Education.”
In October 2009, Specter called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and his support for both the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and passage of the Matthew Shepard hate crimes law were crucial to their passages.