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With Specter in, Torsella bows out of Senate race

Democrat Joe Torsella is dropping out of the 2010 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, a casualty of five-term Sen. Arlen Specter's decision last month to become a Democrat.

Democrat Joe Torsella is dropping out of the 2010 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, a casualty of five-term Sen. Arlen Specter's decision last month to become a Democrat.

Torsella, former president of the National Constitution Center, was the first candidate to enter the Democratic primary in February, with the tacit encouragement of Gov. Rendell and the backing of many of the governor's top donors.

Although Torsella quickly raised about $600,000, Specter's decision changed the electoral calculus as most of the party establishment rallied around the newest Democrat. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Rendell, and Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) all endorsed the former Republican for reelection.

In a videotaped message to supporters posted on YouTube last night, Torsella acknowledged that Specter's outsized personality would swamp his attempts to discuss issues such as health-care coverage for the uninsured.

"At first I was reluctant to quit something that so many people had thrown themselves into with their whole heart and soul," Torsella said on the video.

"But now that the dust has settled, it's clear to me that the kind of campaign this would become is not the kind of campaign I - or you - signed up for," Torsella continued. "It probably would be negative, personal and more about Sen. Specter's past than our common future - and that won't do Pennsylvanians any good."

Torsella, 45, was a highly regarded aide to Rendell when the latter was mayor of Philadelphia in the 1990s. He ran for Congress in the 2004 primary, losing to now-Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz.

Rep. Joe Sestak has been talking about challenging Specter in the Democratic primary, and Torsella's decision is likely to focus more attention on him.

State Rep. Bill Kortz (D., Allegheny) is also running for the nomination, and Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb has said he is considering doing so.

Former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey and antiabortion activist Peg Luksik are the announced candidates on the GOP side.