Reader Poll: Who Would Be Sestak’s Toughest 2016 Opponent?

Sestak announce video

Sestak announces a potential Senate rematch.

Back in May, former Admiral and former Congressman Joe Sestak announced that he is exploring a potential 2016 challenge to Sen. Pat Toomey, who defeated him in 2010.

Since then, the narrative has focused on the possibility of a rematch between Sestak and Toomey, which would be the first major party U.S. Senate rematch in Pa. history.

But Sestak hasn’t technically entered the primary yet, let alone won it.

Three years out and with plenty of time to test the waters, other big-name Democrats have undoubtedly thought about challenging Toomey.

For the sake of this hypothetical, imagine that Democrats lose the 2014 governor’s race, so that all of the current candidates for that office would be available in 2016.

What do you think?

Who would be Joe Sestak’s most formidable opponent in the 2016 Democratic Senate primary?


  • Kathleen Kane, PA Attorney General (39%)
  • Josh Shapiro, Montgomery Co. Commissioner (15%)
  • Rob McCord, PA Treasurer (11%)
  • Allyson Schwartz, Congresswoman (9%)
  • Michael Nutter, Philadelphia Mayor (6%)
  • Katie McGinty, former PA DEP Sec. (5%)
  • Matt Cartwright, Congressman (4%)
  • Eugene DePasquale, PA Auditor General (3%)
  • Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Exec (3%)
  • Ed Pawlowski, Allentown Mayor (2%)
  • Tom Wolf, former PA Revenue Sec. (2%)
  • John Callahan, Bethlehem Mayor (1%)

Total Voters: 500

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July 30th, 2013 | Posted in Features, Front Page Stories, Senate, Top Stories | 10 Comments

10 thoughts on “Reader Poll: Who Would Be Sestak’s Toughest 2016 Opponent?”

  1. Given Sestak’s strong showing in the 2010 general election despite the national Republican wave, I don’t think that he will be vulnerable to a primary election challenge within his own party.

  2. uniondem says:

    Daylin

  3. David Diano says:

    Kristoppherson-

    You are absolutely correct that Sestak is actively trying to repair his image and help (or appear to help) local candidates.

    Since he got elected in 2006, he’s repeatedly turned away Delco Dem candidates who’ve come to him for help, to the point where they don’t bother. One candidate quipped to me: “If I want to get rejected, I’ll go to a bar.”

    Sure, Joe can point to a few he’s helped, but there are more that have been turned away.

    I’ve been advising Delco candidates these days to knock on Joe’s door for donations and help, and if he gives them the back of his hand like the past, to tell him flat out that they will not be supporting him beyond the ballot box (and not at all in a primary). Plenty of Dems are tired of kissing Joe’s ring (and a**) to get help.

    In 2007, I asked Joe’s brother if Joe would be helping fundraise for Delco Dems. His reply was: “Why should he? It’s not his contest. No one here did anything for him.”

    Let’s just say that Sestak has a lot of fences to mend.

  4. Kristoppherson says:

    From what I have heard, Sestak will take a softer approach to dealing with supporters and party stalwarts. He acknowledges that he was tough in 2010 but a softer hand will allow him to appeal to a broader range of people.

    From what I have seen so far, I agree with the rumors I have heard. There are examples of him helping people run elections all over the state. Also, he has been one of the only candidates who are actively courting the smaller, more rural counties.

  5. David Diano says:

    Baxter-
    You make a few good points, and while I agree that Sestak is a hard worker, he is more of the “worker harder not smarter” variety. When I go to Dem events and talk to candidates and committee people, the consensus opinion is that Sestak blew his 2010 race by refusing to participate in a coordinated campaign with the party. That move not only hurt Sestak, but hurt performance throughout the ticket. Sestak ran away from the party and the ticket, and hurt both.

    Your own statement: “I am afraid we are stuck with Sestak.” leans against your claim: “People like him and he has a strong following, despite what everyone here says.” I agree that Toomey has been getting away with portraying himself as a moderate, but I blame Sestak for being a total p*ssy on that in 2010 campaign. You KNOW that Specter would have portrayed Toomey as a right-wing nutjob to the right of Santorum. Joe’s entire campaign was: “I was an Admiral”.

    Joe’s “following” gets smaller all the time, as people catch on to (and tire of) his particular brand of BS.

    As for Joe’s polling for Gov, he barely got above 20% despite his significant advantage in name recognition.

    I don’t see Kane running for Senate, but she is far more popular among Dems than Sestak.

    I don’t think any of the Gov candidates would lose to Corbett, and I’m assuming whoever loses the Primary would turn their attention to the Senate race. If a candidate can’t beat someone as unpopular as Corbett, then they should retire from politics completely.

    Shapiro is young, but he is sharp and popular. He’d be around the age Obama was when he got elected to Senate. If Josh can raise the money, I think he could take on Sestak.

    Let’s face it, Sestak and Murphy both got elected in 2006 because Dems needed candidates with military credentials to oppose the Iraq War (and then Joe turned around and voted twice to give Bush a blank check). So, these guys were one-note wonders. There are plenty of other Dems who actually care about political public service on a wide range of issues, and have more to offer voters, because they worked their way up the political ranks and paid their dues.

  6. Baxter G says:

    How about “none of the above?”

    Sestak has the money and works harder than anyone in the field. Furthermore, he has high name recognition and barely lost a race in a heavily R year. People like him and he has a strong following, despite what everyone here says. He led the governor’s race without even declaring his candidacy while other like Ally did.

    Kane will be focused on reelection in 2016. For Senate, you essentially have to declare candidacy 18-15 months before the general. The timing does not work, and hopping from one office to the other so suddenly looks bad. But what exactly has she done lately that has been impressive? He election was reaction to PSU and Corbett if anything.

    Shapiro is also too young and focused on 2015. Again, time frames overlap and it’s not practical.

    McCord maybe has a chance to be a candidate, but his name recognition is not great and has no profile.

    Ally Schwartz would be tainted if she losses to Corbett.

    I am afraid we are stuck with Sestak. Toomey however has a strong chance of winning. It’s unfortunate how well he has masked his policies to appear as a moderate.

  7. Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D. says:

    You handicappers haven’t asked the putative bench-warmers how they may feel [initially] about how you have relegated them to inactivity, when it would be more difficult for them [subsequently] to challenge incumbent D’s [were they to win].

  8. David Diano says:

    Jeremy-

    The Philly power brokers went “all-in” on Murphy over Kane, and got their asses handed to them. To be honest, I don’t know if Kane is really interested in being Governor (maybe the first AG to be that way). Senator’s a better job than Gov, because you have 99 other Senators to blame (and the 435 hotheads in the House).

    But, the question is: who would give Sestak the hardest time?

    I think Kane would beat Sestak (and the Philly power brokers don’t like Sestak after he p*ssed all over them in 2010).

    Josh has a big career ahead of him. He is FAR more well liked than Sestak. The Montco Dems love Josh and Marcel craps out things bigger and tougher than Delco’s chairman (who is completely useless). So, I think that if Josh raised enough money to compete and get his message out, he could beat Sestak in a primary.

    There is one name that is missing from this list: Daylin “The Liberal Lion” Leach. I think Daylin could wipe the floor with Sestak in a Dem primary.

    Losing Gov Primary would not be a deal-killer for McCord, if he was highly visible helping Schwartz (and then she in turn agreed to support McCord over Sestak). Same is true if McCord beats Schwartz.

    Actually, I think McCord would be a better Gov than Schwartz because of his position as treasurer and knowledge of PA. Schwartz would probably be better in Senate, since she already knows Washington (except for the fact that she’s wrong on the whole NSA issue).

    Anyway the poll, it’s not about who would run, but rather who could beat Sestak (or give him the hardest time). Almost any of them would be BETTER than Sestak.

  9. Jeremy says:

    Let’s play fill in the blank:

    This is why ___________ won’t challenge Sestak in 2016

    Kathleen Kane- Although very popular, she is from Scranton along with Bob Casey, Jr. There is no way the Phillly power brokers are going to have two Scrantonians as their Senators. Also, Kane IS THE BENCH for the Dems in PA. Likely, Guv candidate in 2022.

    McCord- If he doesn’t win Guv, may challenge Sestak for Senate. But he is currently the Treasurer. Sestak will be out there campaigning actively while McCord is being the Treasurer. Also, McCord would have the Guv Primary loss as his most recent election.

    Shapiro- Along with Kane, he is the bench for the Dems. Too bright of a future. If he is patient, he will have a great poltical career.

    Schwartz- probably will win Guv.

    Cartwright- another Scrantonian. Making good traction in Congress. Safe seat probably for his life.

    Nutter – was more popular 2 years ago. Let his national profile go cold.

    McGinty – could be another dark horse. Too low of a profile.

    Everyone else – too low of a profile for 2016.

  10. David Diano says:

    While a dead cat would be a better Senator than Sestak, there are a few names on this list that could beat him, and others that wouldn’t stand a chance.

    Nutter could have been a great choice, but his popularity has faded in Philadelphia, and I don’t think he’d have enough appeal in the western part of the state.

    McCord/Schwartz are obvious picks as they both will have great name recognition from the 2014 primaries, when Sestak is not on the air, and remains a fading bad memory.

    Shapiro is someone I’ve touted for a 2022 run, so he’d have a decade of more accomplishments under his belt. However, he is popular and smart. If he puts his mind to it, and raises the money, he could kick Sestak’s a** back to Virginia. He would certainly wipe the floor with Sestak (and later Toomey) in a debate.

    Kane is awesome, and her recent principled stands for marriage rights have just made her more so. By 2016, the issue will be well resolved and her early stance would help her. If Hillary is the nominee, she would certainly benefit from the extra “girl-power” in turnout and enthusiasm for another “first”.

    Cartwright just got into congress and is going to have his hands full with challengers for his congressional seat.

    The rest of the field has such a low Q-rating that I’m surprised they made it on the list.

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