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Early Returns Blog

Pat Toomey. NYT photo.

We've linked often today to the names Specter, Casey and Toomey. Here's another story on Toomey from the NYT's Kit Seelye today, talking about the freshman Republican's moderate stances on some issues (don't ask don't tell, the Obama tax compromise) and whether he can keep it up in hyper-partisan DC:

His Democratic opponent, Mr. Sestak, said during the campaign that Mr. Toomey was simply trying to hide his extremist agenda, which Mr. Sestak said would benefit only the wealthy and Wall Street and ruin the environment (Mr. Toomey opposes climate change legislation). But Mr. Sestak’s argument lost its punch in the shadow of the Senate race next door in Delaware, where the Republican candidate, Christine O’Donnell, was perceived as far more extreme.

[Lobbyist and former Specter/Toomey aide David] Urban said he hoped to continue to help Mr. Toomey “expand his Rolodex” and called his support for allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military “a pretty significant marker.”

“You can be Jim DeMint in South Carolina,” Mr. Urban said, “but you can’t be Jim DeMint in Pennsylvania.”

NYT photo

We hope you'll join Early Returns in huzzahs for Kevin Evanto, who has returned full-time to the courthouse after a six-month battle with cancer.Kevin Evanto

The 41-year-old communications director for Allegheny County and executive Dan Onorato was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2010, which spread into his abdomen and lungs. After 12 weeks of chemotherapy and two surgeries, he returned to work full-time today.

From a note he issued:

I am thrilled to report that my chemotherapy treatments and surgeries were successful. Therefore, I am resuming my responsibilities as primary media contact and spokesperson for Allegheny County effective immediately.

Please join me in thanking Megan Dardanell for the tremendous job she did during the past several weeks.

I also want to thank all of you for your support and well-wishes during this challenging time in my life.

Steve StallingsAs long as we're highlighting legal stories today, see the paper version of today's PG (or get an online subscription to the Legal Intelligencer) for two other stories with political overtones: one on the GOP march toward tort reform in Harrisburg, and the soft landing for the former prosecutor in the Cyril Wecht case, Steve Stallings (left).

Specter. WashPost photo

The AP has one last post-mortem of Arlen Specter's Senate career:

Specter is unlikely to go down in history as one of the great U.S. senators. But he was widely regarded as a smart, tireless and effective legislator who used his seniority to work the levers of power to serve constituents and bring home tax dollars.

Intellectually, he was head and shoulders above most of his fellow senators and showed a serious national engagement, beyond just taking care of constituents, said Stephen Hess, a former presidential adviser and a senior fellow emeritus in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"We used to tend to measure our senators on whether they were a showhorse or a workhorse," Hess said. "It's fair to say that he was both."

Photo: Arlen Specter rode the Reagan wave into the Senate in 1980, beating former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty. AP/Washington Post photo.

In an echo of their campaign against Kathy Dahlkemper, anti-abortion activists are now targeting Bob Casey (one of only three anti-abortion Dems in the Senate) in 2012 for his support of health care reform. From Roll Call:

“To really call himself pro-life is not quite right,” said Helen Gohsler, president of the Scranton chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life, based in Casey’s hometown.Shenanigans game

She laughed incredulously when asked whether the local anti-abortion community could support Casey in 2012. “He betrayed us,” she said.

Casey's spokesman calls shenanigans:

“Those groups were for Rick Santorum. He was their guy. They didn’t support Sen. Casey then, and they’re not going to support him now,” Casey spokesman Larry Smar said. “There’s a big difference between real Pennsylvanians and these interest groups.”

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