In the wake of Tuesday’s primary election, I was reminded of the 1986 Pennsylvania Senate race that pitted incumbent Republican Arlen Specter against Democrat challenger Bob Edgar in the fall general election. It was the first major political race I covered, working at the Delaware County Daily Times.
Edgar had been elected to Congress in 1975 – the first Democrat in 36 years to represent the 7th Congressional District, primarily in Delaware County. The very personable Edgar was swept into office riding the wave of the post-Watergate anti-Republican sentiment.
In the early to mid-’80s, with the GOP returning to favor in voters’ minds, Edgar won a couple of tough re-elections. Perhaps sensing his days in Congress were numbered, he ran for the Senate seat against Specter, a moderate Republican, and lost by about 12 percentage points. As expected, a Republican won election to Edgar’s old seat.
Newspapers were rather flush with staff in those days, and my paper could afford to devote separate reporters to cover the candidates. I drew the Specter campaign, which was not nearly as exciting as reporting on Edgar, the charismatic underdog.