(243) 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 buy 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.
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?