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In the first skirmish of what is expected to be a blockbuster 2010 Democratic Senate primary, Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.) released a lengthy statement Thursday evening in response to Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) calling the Congressman "a flagrant hypocrite."
Sestak is gearing up to challenge Specter, who switched parties earlier this year in order to run for re-election as a Democrat. Specter released a statement Thursday that argued it was hypocritical for Sestak who first registered as a Democrat the same year he launched his campaign for Congress to call him a political opportunist.
But Sestak fired back, accusing Specter of "making Republican swift-boat attacks on the integrity of Democrats who served in our military" and reiterating that he was registered as an Independent for most of his life because of his Navy career.
"Like Colin Powell (who was also registered as an Independent while he served), I believe that military officers should be nonpartisan," Sestak said. "I'm proud that I was an Independent during my 35 years in the Navy, and I was proud to register as a Democrat as soon as I retired from active duty."
Sestak also disputed Specter's claim that the Congressman had missed voting in most of the general elections from 1971 to 2005. Sestak said that he voted for Democrats Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama. He also said that Specter's assertion that he didn't vote in the 1992 presidential race was flat wrong. In other years, Sestak said that he requested absentee ballots while he was serving out of state but that perhaps not all of his votes got counted.
"Unfortunately , as multiple reports have documented, it is all too common for servicemembers serving in our military to not have their ballots counted because they arrive too late," Sestak said. "It's sad that after 30 years in Washington, all Arlen Specter has to run on is a negative campaign."