Specter Wins Pennsylvania Democratic Party Backing for Senate Primary Bid

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. (AP).

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. (AP).  (AP )

The Pennsylvania Democratic Committee on Saturday endorsed Sen. Arlen Specter over Rep. Joe Sestak for the Senate nomination, despite Specter's recent conversion to the Democrats after 30 years as an elected Republican.

Specter garnered 77 percent of the committee vote, surpassing the 66 percent needed to gain the party's nod.

"I am very thankful and grateful for the strong endorsement I received today from the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee," Specter said.

"Their endorsement is a big boost to my campaign. I will run a vigorous campaign to retain this U.S. Senate seat and help all Democrats up and down the ballot."

Sestak, Specter's challenger, has complained bitterly that his party abandoned him for a GOP senator.

"The establishment has long made it known that it struck a deal to anoint the long-time Republican Senator." Sestak said in a statement.

Pennsylvania Democrats have said for weeks that they expected Specter to win the endorsement, calling him a "survivor" and "our best chance to win."

The Democratic primary is scheduled for May 18, and the endorsement, while merely symbolic, signifies that Specter has bridged the gap among the party's central committee that he is a crossover politician. The rank-and-file primary voters will still have their say, but a loss by Specter would've been a loss to the establishment of Gov. Ed Rendell and President Obama, who gave their support to Specter over Sestak.

In the latest polls out of The Keystone State, Specter has a comfortable lead over Sestak, but trails his potential general election rival, former Republican Rep. Pat Toomey.

When Specter switched to the Democratic Party last spring, he cited an uphill battle in winning the senatorial GOP primary as one of the reasons behind his decisions.

Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.