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(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Utah Democratic Party leaders say they're pleased but not surprised by Sen. Arlen Specter's party switch. Utah Party Chairman Wayne Holland believes the far right faction of the party is driving moderates out.
"It's just another indication that the far right has captured the party," Holland said. He'd heard rumblings that Specter was going to make the switch.
Sen. Bob Bennett believes Sen. Arlen Specter's announcement that he's becoming a Democrat is "because he believes it's the only way he can get re-elected."
There had been rumors for a long time that Specter would leave the GOP, especially in the face of tough competition as he runs for re-election next year.
Bennett is worried about the future. "If Al Franken is seated from Minnesota, they (Democrats) will have 60 votes. That means they can do in the Senate whatever they want," he said.
With the prospect of Specter's creating a veto-proof vote in the Senate, Holland says Utahns who felt stung by the last powerful Democratic administration shouldn't be worried.
"It's going to be a far different Democratic Party because Rocky Mountain state Democrats have leading roles within this administration. They're going to keep it on an even keel," Holland said.
Holland says the switch could soon move some of the Obama administration's agendas forward, items that had been stalled by threat of a filibuster.
In order to obtain a 60-member majority in the Senate, Al Franken of Minnesota would have to first be confirmed as a senator. Franken is still embroiled in a legal challenge with Republican Norm Coleman for that seat.
He also told Doug Wright on KSL Newsradio that he was worried about checks and balances against a one party rule and the defection "is not good for the country".
Still, the junior Senator from Utah offered some praise for Specter's record. During the Bush administration, Specter was the head of the Judiciary Committee and helped usher through two nominations to the Supreme Court.