Candidate Sestak’s second fall from Dem party grace

By Dick Miller:

WE.CONNECT.DOTS: Sunday, November 22, 2015 – Retired Admiral Joe Sestak has fallen from grace with national Democrat power brokers more than once.

He was viewed with favor early in 2010 when he announced he was vacating his Congressional seat in southeastern PA to run for Senate against Arlen Specter a one-time popular moderate Philadelphia Republican. Over the tenure of three six-year terms, Specter had typically given his own GOP Party fits over his moderate stances on legislation.

At that time rank-in-file Democrats were growing weary of what Specter extracted for his occasional votes supporting the opposition party’s goals. Notable national Democrat powerbrokers misread Specter’s waning popularity with their voters.

This writer, a partisan Democrat, had, until 2010 supported Specter each time his name was on the ballot. In 2004 I made a point of telling Ed Rendell, then in the middle of his first term as Governor, that our block of votes would be supporting Specter in what would become his last successful election.

“Do you have any problem with that, Governor?” I asked. “Hell, no,” he replied, “That guy gave me my first job.”

Still, in early 2010, Sestak obtained nothing but approvals and pledges of financial support when he announced he would take on Specter.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Specter announced he would change parties and run as a Democrat to hold his Senate seat.

Even then Specter demanded seniority from the Democratic Senate leadership in committee assignments. In 2009 he had delivered a critical vote to President Obama’s recovery program in exchange for replacing $80 billion in infrastructure improvements with additional tax cuts for the rich.

Even with that abysmal record, Democrat powerbrokers greeted Specter’s party flip like the Second Coming.

Sestak was “in” one day and “out” the next.

Specter ran in 2010 as a Democrat with the solid endorsement of President Obama, leaders of the AFL-CIO, Gov. Rendell and practically every other Democrat with a title.

Sestak ended Specter’s career with a crushing defeat in the Democrat primary.

Even then, Sestak got little or no help from the Democrat leadership in the fall. He lost to Republican Pat Toomey by two points while Dem candidate for governor, Dan Onorato was losing by ten points to an incompetent Tom Corbett.

Sestak never stopped running, announcing he would oppose Toomey again in 2016.

Democrat powerbrokers still didn’t embrace Sestak, but early on did little to oppose his repeat candidacy. Then Toomey began showing signs of weakness and vulnerability.

Sestak has again fallen from grace with the Democrat leadership that has apparently solidified behind Katy McGinty. The former Chief of Staff to Gov. Wolf was so excited at this opportunity that she left Wolf in the middle of a vicious battle over this year’s budget.

Rendell has switched roles. In 2002 when he ran successfully for Governor, he began as” Peck’s Bad Boy,” and regular line Democrats were more partial to then state Treasurer Bob Casey. The son of a former Governor, Casey ran one of the worst campaigns in Democrat history and Rendell won the primary.

Now he is the personification of the Democrat machine, closely aligned with Hillary Clinton and enjoying Gov. Wolf and McGinty beholden to his power.

In emails sent Friday, Nov. 13, the writer asked Democrat Senator Bob Casey, new party chair Marcel Groen and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a leader in the Senate Campaign Committee for comments for this column.

None replied.

Casey remains, on record, as “neutral” in the 2016 PA Democrat senate primary race. Groen would not have secured his state chair position if he had not pledged to work against Sestak.

Schumer makes no secret of his solicitation of as many as a dozen alternatives to Sestak, finally settling on McGinty as one he thinks can defeat Sestak.

At least Schumer is consistent. He is known to have inserted his influence in at least four other state primaries where Democrats have a chance to unseat an incumbent Republican. Schumer favors liberal Senators over moderate candidates in each of these states.

Schumer is likely to be the Senate Democrat leader in 2017 because Harry Reid is retiring.

Bottom Line: Donations to the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee are being spent to deny PA voters from making their own primary choice. Is that a reason to write the check

Updated: November 23, 2015 — 7:42 am


  1. I’m a Republican. The funny thing is, I would vote for Sestak, but I would vote for Toomey over McGinty. Democrats don’t realize there are a lot of Republicans that voted for Sestak in 2010. But many of those same people won’t vote for McGinty. Especially in coal country.

  2. I can’t say I know Sestak, but his life story commands respect, and his speeches and essays portray a compassionate man who understands government. Democrats need credibility, and a former Navy admiral will have more credibility than McGinty.

  3. I wish this guy would learn the word Democratic. It’s the Democratic Party.

    I don’t think it’s as complicated as the author makes it. Specter switched sides. A good number of Democrats were not comfortable with the idea that we were just supposed to welcome Specter as a Democrat with open arms. Sestak ran an insurgent campaign, without the blessing of the party establishment, and succeeded at winning the nomination and probably costing the Democrats the election. Party leaders still haven’t forgiven him for this.

    EDITOR: If Specter lost that badly in the Democrat primary, why would have been likely to have won the general election?

  4. Katie McGinty is a fabulous candidate but we know and respect Joe Sestak. I’m waiting to see how they stand on the issues relative to one another before I start contributing to either campaign.

  5. I think Joe Sestak has a lot more supporters than this article assumes.

  6. I’m just waiting for any one of the three of them to begin explaining why we Dems should pick one over the other two.

    All we hear is how terrible Toomey is. We know that…we’re Dems. Tell us why you are the best choice of the three in the upcoming race.

    This article is a great start in differentiating our candidates prior to our election.

  7. I was fooled by the Sestak schtick once, not again. He’s not who he pretends to be in my opinion. As soon as he wins an election he’s on to the next campaign. Why not just run for president and save us all the wasted time. Or mabey do what your are elected to do.

    EDITOR: Sestak served two terms in the House of Representatives and then ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2010.

  8. Sestak and McGinty may be academic at best. John Fetterman is running a grass roots campaign that is appealing to the party base and he’s definitely picking up steam.

  9. Joe Saystax just like all the other Libs. Tax and spend . Pa and American taxpayers are broke. Mcginty and Corbett together are the death knell of taxpayers paychecks.

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