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PA-Sen: Democrats Search For Alternatives To Sestak


Pennsylvania Democrats have been quietly searching for a candidate to challenge Joe Sestak for the party’s 2016 Senate nomination, National Journal reported Thursday.

Sestak, the party’s 2010 nominee, has been gearing up for a rematch against Sen. Pat Toomey for two years. He lost by just two points in 2010.

Democratic leaders are concerned a Toomey-Sestak rematch will lead to similar results.

“In my estimation, if Joe Sestak is the nominee in 2016 for U.S. Senate, we will once again lose to Pat Toomey,” T.J. Rooney, the state Democratic Party’s Chair in 2010, told National Journal.

It was always assumed Sestak would have some company in the primary. But high-profile Democrats, such as Attorney General Kathleen Kane, have since taken their names out of the running. The last of those Democrats, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, is rumored to have lost interest in the bid, as well.

Recently, former Rep. Chris Carney and State Sen. Vincent Hughes have floated the idea of running against Sestak.

National Democratic leaders have also been approaching others about running. According to the National Journal’s report, Sen. Jon Tester, new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, reached out to Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald about pursuing the seat. And the DSCC has met with Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has popped up in the mix as well. Williams didn’t say he’s considering a bid, but he didn’t rule it out either.

“Who wouldn’t want to be a U.S. senator?” Williams told National Journal, noting that being a Senator would allow him the opportunity to pursue policy goals important to him. “I’m a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, so I take orders well. If they give me a call, I’ll listen.”

Williams has made headlines recently challenging new Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on the death penalty. If he (or Hughes) ran and won, he would be the state’s first African American senator.

Rep. Bob Brady, chair of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, praised Williams and urged him to consider a bid.

“I would like to see him take a good look at it, and if he did, I certainly would be willing to support him,” Brady said.

A competitive Democratic primary, though, could ultimately weaken the candidate who survives it. Though Sestak may have differences with the party’s establishment, he did pose a formidable challenge to Toomey in 2010. And his more stubborn, independent attitude may be part of what endears him to voters.

“What this highlights is there is always a bit of distance between what party leaders want and what voters want,” said Dan Fee, a Philadelphia-based Democratic consultant. “This is a guy who, in a terrible year, barely lost. At the very least, he starts ahead.”

29 Responses

  1. Diano you are a bonehead. All Toomey had to do to beat Specter in a general was run the same ad against Specter that Sestak ran…holding Palin in a deep embrace, then Obama, then cut to the video of him being his true creepy self declaring “My change in party will enable me to get re-eeeeelected.” My dog could have beaten Specter, nobody liked or trusted a guy who switches parties more times than Bill Clinton switches girlfriends

  2. @ DD:

    What I don’t know, I admit; it’s a shame you haven’t yet learned [1]–to emulate that approach, and [2]–the “shanda” of a foreign policy (c/o BHO) that you defend.

  3. Robert-

    You know even less about internal Dem politics than you do about most of the other things you know zero about. I attended Dem functions all throughout that period, spoke to county chairmen, etc. Potential candidates were a common topic, as well as the lament over how unassailable Specter was in the center.

    Right now there is a search for anyone but Sestak. While there is no clear candidate, there is confidence that someone will emerge to spare us another Sestak run. It’s a presidential year and with Hillary as the likely nominee and the convention in Philly, that Dem turnout will be unusually high in PA.

    It’s less a question of whether or not Sestak could beat Toomey in that Dem favored environment, but rather, why the f*ck would the Dems waste this golden opportunity on a p*tz like Sestak? Even if elected, Sestak would serve only one term, and stick us with an open seat in 2022. He’s a terrible choice. We need a much younger candidate who could serve several terms.

    Toomey is the person in the state most interested in a Sestak run, because Sestak is Toomey’s best chance at getting reelected.

  4. @ DD:

    I recall the scandal … and you seem to know more about it than many intensely-questioning individuals; either you are an insider or you are a conjurer.

  5. Robert-
    As I explained, they couldn’t find anyone to run against Specter. Everyone was afraid to run against him. There was talk of Toraselli (sp?) as the sacrificial lamb, but I don’t know how far that got. There has been rumors about Chris Matthews, but those were probably a negotiation tactic for renewing his NSNBC contract. I think Josh may have looked into it as well. I’m sure they asked plenty of others.

    But, pretty much Specter was the Dem candidate and Rendell and others had been trying to get him to switch for a long time.

    However, the point remains, that once Sestak refused the offer, he lost all entitlement to be the preferred nominee.

  6. Note that DD again evaded the specific question posed to him [“Mr. Diano, who is the supposed candidate the Dems got to run after Sestak supposedly initially turned them down?”].

    Credibility continues to sink, below gutter, below sewer, into the miasma.

  7. Clueless-

    Sestak himself has admitted that he was approached to run, and turned it down. This is well known.

    But, at that time, Specter was still a Republican and Toomey was NOT going to challenge him. After Specter’s support of Obama, the right wing decided to challenge Specter to a Primary, with Toomey.

    Before this point, a Specter with the GOP behind him was considered unbeatable by a Dem. Specter owned the center and a lot of Dems liked him. So, Sestak turned down the chance to run.

    Once it became clear that Toomey was going to challenge Specter, it was understood that Specter had NO CHANCE of winning the GOP primary. So, running against Toomey instead of Specter because a GOOD opportunity for the Dems (especially in 2009 when Obama was at height of popularity).

    While Specter could not beat Toomey in a primary, he would slaughter him in a general election because Specter owned the center and Toomey was a far right-winger that Specter has years of opposition research on his extremism.

    According to Sestak, he decided to run and met with Bill Clinton to discuss it. While waiting for Clinton, the news came on with the announcement of Specter switching parties.

    Specter had $10 million cash-on-hand and never got to spend a dime of it against Toomey.

    Sestak didn’t want to work with the party because they didn’t support him, but in general he never respected the party. In Delaware county, when he first ran, he had nothing but contempt for the local county party structure and other candidates on the ballot. In his view, they were lazy (compared to him) and utterly worthless. With state committee, he didn’t want to pay their workers minimum wage.

    But, Sestak is NOT some high-minded independent. He’s a f*cking control freak who wants nothing less than blood-oath loyalty to his AND ONLY HIS candidacy. The other candidates are thrown to the wolves. The party supports all the candidates on the ticket. Sestak has no interest in anyone spending effort on any other candidates. It’s “all about Joe”.

  8. @ “Diano is clueless”:

    In response to your query, note comments regarding a prior article [Kane: “No, I Won’t Resign”] that refuted David Diano [January 22, 2015 at 11:44 pm] after he had endorsed the claim by Lanny Davis that the absence of this charge was particularly telling; this is another reason why Lanny’s legal competence seems increasingly flawed [a problem that must be bleeding into his “PR”-work].

    In a prior exchange with DD [Report: Grand Jury Recommends Criminal Charges Against Kane], documentation of his “destroyed” credibility was provided, and it would seem apt [therefore] to quote my brother’s suggestion [in other contexts] that he [and other Dem-acolytes] need cease-and-desist, for she should have a fork stuck into her … because she’s “done”; regardless of what he is arguing, you might best reconsider your stance if you are tempted to agree with him.

    Lest DD feel he can resurrect his cred by forgetting the past, one need only recall what was written previously [December 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm]: “You have advocated the overthrow of the Israeli government throughout Israel’s entire lifetime … explaining why you have endorsed the behavior of Hamas [which the USA has designated as a terrorist organization] that is, itself, promoting policies that are consonant with those of the Islamic State.”

    These conclusions were cited after having read DD’s prior lame attempts to defend AG-Kane; documentation of why his comments would best be ignored had been compiled following a series of e-mail exchanges [extending over multiple sites] regarding myriad topics.

    Even his prognostication that Sestak would be a one-termer is flawed, for even flawed incumbents usually enjoy an edge.

  9. Nathanial: You might want to check the record on Sestak’s party support in the 2010 general election. He waved off all support. He wanted to run it alone — and he did — and he lost. He’s operating that way again now. He doesn’t want the support which means Toomey wins again. PA is a battleground state. The GOP is going to throw a lot of money around. Sestak can’t and won’t play nice to get the support. He can’t win. Period. We need Carney. He is the only contender that has already been elected to national office. He too has a distinguished military career. He too has a PhD. He gets along with people and listens to others outside his family. Regardless of your leaning within the party, you can get behind him on most of his issues. Some have argued here that he is a Dem in name only. I disagree. He had a 91% democratic voting record representing one of the reddest districts in PA, in fact — the entire northeast US. Sestak represented one of the bluest districts in PA and had a 95% Dem voting record … why not 100% if he’s such a good liberal Dem? Sestak has been campaigning for years and even after running around to every county seat and cajoling county party chiefs, he has only a 23% approval rating. He LOSES to Toomey by 10 in the last Quinnipiac poll. Carney just won 41% in a three-way poll which included Sestak. The more I read about Carney, he is the only one who can beat Toomey! So, I say … “Chris Carney enter the race!”

  10. Mr. Diano, who is the supposed candidate the Dems got to run after Sestak supposedly initially turned them down? I am pretty connected to the party, and this is the first I am hearing of it this nonsensical story…..

  11. I agree with those who think the party insiders haven’t been great at choosing candidates. Could we please just have a people’s primary without pressure from Harrisburg and Washington?

    If so, I’m confident Sestak will win, because those who think he isn’t an inspiring speaker haven’t heard him recently. He is a heartfelt Dem with a distinguished military career and a PhD from Harvard. What more is the ex-chair who led the party to disaster in 2010 going to find for his party?

    With proper support, Sestak would have won in 2010. With Toomey’s right-wing stances now open for all to see, Sestak will win the rematch in 2016.

  12. WTH- In early 2009, the party approached Sestak to run for senate. He said “no thanks”. So, they got another candidate. Then, Sestak expected/demanded the opportunity that he passed up.

    If he got into the Senate, he’d be a one-termer anyway. We need a candidate who will be around for several terms.

  13. Frank Fina & Mark Costanza can be the campaign managers for Seth Williams. No doubt that will carry him far.

  14. If Sestak walked into a room this weekend at state committee I would quickly figure out who David Diano is because he would be the guy with the exploding.

  15. If this is “quietly” looking for another candidate, I wonder what loudly looking for another candidate looks like.

  16. It is clear that Joe Sestak isn’t liked by party elders because he is independent. He had the audacity to challenge Arlen “my switch in party will enable me to get re-elected!” Specter, and to support Matt Cartwright. He beat Specter, and Cartwright beat Holden. The irony here is that Toomey went through the same thing. He challenged Specter and headed up the right-wing Club for Growth, which led his party’s leaders to find someone else to run for Senate. They tried to get Tom Ridge and even now-convicted felon Jane Orie to run.
    People want to see a Toomey vs Sestak rematch, the battle of two independent politicians who’ve made a living pissing off party bosses.

  17. McGinty would be a very interesting option. Is she interested? A woman candidate with Hillary at the head of ticket could certainly focus on the Toomey/GOP disconnect about women and families.

  18. Why is Mcginty’s name not mentioned? She may have a few enemies on the state committee, but she’ll have some more experience after being Gov. Wolf’s COS, and it always seemed to me that thr reason she stuck it out until the end of the primary was to try and boost her name ID for the next race. Having said that I think Fitzgerald would be good as well. I think it could be a strong move if the party nominated someone from this half of the state.

  19. Establishment Democrats like to ignore the fact they they lost the senate election by refusing to support Sestak, and they are responsible for six years of Toomey.

  20. Carney is a non-starter. We need better Democrats, not Republican-lites. Candidates like Carney have no idea what it means to be a Democrat.

  21. I disagree with “observer.” These guys aren’t losers. At least they’re putting themselves out there. There is only one possible contender to defeat Toomey in ’16.

    But, it isn’t Joe Sestak. For Joe, it is “all about Joe.” One thing you can tell from his record and his run against Toomey since the ’10 race, is that Joe doesn’t like to lose. He will do anything to win an argument, point or race. His time in the Navy is evidence of that. Fired for being a horrible boss because he wants to win and doesn’t tolerate those who can’t keep up. He even treated he congressional staff badly. How many staff did he burn through? I read here somewhere that he isn’t even a Pa resident and he and his family really live in northern virginia. Plus, the man has been racing against Toomey since 2010. If he is “the guy” everyone says is THE candidate, then Toomey’s gonna win if Sestak with his name recognition loses to Toomey by 10 points in the latest polls. It can’t be Joe.

    It is not Josh Shapiro. Shapiro is a good guy, but he just isn’t ready. He’s got some experience, but outside of Montco, who knows him? Can, as some mentioned awhile ago, you really attribute the turnaround of Montco if he has only been there two or so years? He has no real name recognition beyond being mentioned as a potential candidate. Maybe he should start against Meehan or Costello in the 6th or 7th districts? So, it can’t be Josh yet.

    It is not Seth Williams. I think he likes his job. He’s got power where’s he’s at. He’s good at what he does. He would be a better Kathleen Kane. So, it’s not Seth.

    It also can’t be Vincent Hughes? Who is he? ‘nough said.

    Everyone else has either tanked or said no. So, who else is there? Chris Carney? I have to think so. Look at him. He has the right experience – former congressman from up north. He’s already weighed in on some big issues – voted for Obamacare. He’s a veteran and navy reservist. He is a reaper commander (drones?). I read somewhere that he was the guy who came up with the idea that planes could be used as weapons prior to 9/11. He’s kept a low profile so nothing embarrassing. The president appointed him to be on that military compensation commission. He beat out everyone in the poll here last week – not that it matters, but it was out of nowhere. HE beat Sestak by 10 points in that poll. Yes, he’s a Blue Dog, but, think about it, Pa elected Toomey and Santorum, but Pa is a conservative democratic state. Yes, people want a progressive, but is that realistic?

    No one else mentioned has done the stuff he has and he’s not an a$$ like Sestak. Montco PA Dem, the better candidate is gotta be Carney.

  22. Somerton – I’ve said it here before but will repeat: I’ve been a Sestak guy since he ran in 2006 to beat Curt Weldon. I was a huge supporter when he ran against Arlen Specter and then Toomey in 2010. But he’s always had the benefit of being in the right place at the right time. We NEEDED somebody that could run strong against Weldon; we NEEDED somebody who would stand up to the stupidity of the party bosses who were trying to force lifelong Republican Arlen Specter down our throats. And we NEEDED to beat Pat Toomey. I was gung-ho for Sestak in all of those races because there was simply nobody else and I really detested the guy on the other side of the ballot. And next year, if nobody comes along to mount a primary challenge, I’ll be all-in for Sestak again.

    But I think we can do better. Because really, Joe isn’t a very good candidate. He isn’t good with people. And when you give him a mike or a podium, he is flat-out bad at public speaking or putting together an interesting soundbite. Head to head with Toomey, I think Sestak comes up short.

    We need a better candidate. And I think there’s plenty of time for us to get one.

  23. I have no skin in the game when is comes to Sestak but why do so many of these insiders dislike him so much!? Are they really that pissed he knocked off Specter. Sestak ran a great campaign beating Specter and then ran within 2% of Toomey in a record GOP year even while Onorato lost by 9%. I think Sestak is our best candidate.

  24. Sestak will have challengers. Some of his cash on hand is reserved for the General election and can’t be used for the Primary.

    Shapiro will have even better name recognition in the SE after the 2015 season and Montco county commissioners race. It would be pretty easy to construct ads with Josh that were generic enough that they would apply to a county or senate run equally well and get his name and values in peoples’ mind months before Sestak would air ads. So, Shapiro could imitate Wolf’s success with a strong effort to get his name out there, since Montco shares the Philly TV market. So, Shapiro could spread his name in the Philly market through Nov 2015, without using funds from a non-existent senate campaign.

    Shapiro would win the Montco endorsement and most of the Philly endorsements. (Brady’s statement makes it clear he’s not interested in Sestak.) Shapiro would be able to catch up to Sestak in fundraising within a month or two. Last time, Sestak was able to bring over $4.5 million from his congressional account. He doesn’t have that resource this time.

    The point is nobody wants Sestak as the Dem’s senate candidate except Toomey.

  25. 1. You can’t have a candidate who keeps a computer-porn distributor as his right-hand man. Williams is OUT.

    2. ALL shapiro has going for him is his place as Fast Eddie’s Best Boy, and a very lame on-line presence. In person, he is the very least impressive politician you have ever seen. A real weasel.

    3. Rooney is an idiot. Under his watch, the State party lost everything in Harrisburg, every time, which resulted in the permanent gerrymanders we have now. He should be shot. Why was he even asked anything? He knows NOTHING about winning elections.

    4. I wouldn’t mind a better candidate than the Admiral, but the names being floated so far are just a bunch of Losers. We need a superstar and celebrity type not currently tainted with the Loser’s Stench of the State Party apparatus.

  26. That is some weak-sister reporting on Josh Shapiro, that he “is rumored to have lost interest in the bid.” Of course he’s going to be on the sidelines through November, since he’s running for reelection as Montco Commissioner. Meanwhile, it would be a real shame to see somebody like Seth Williams, who’s just not ready for this battle, squeeze in now and make a later entry by Shapiro just about impossible.

  27. Rich Fitzgerald? I’d venture to guess the only thing going for him is his potential to lock up a quarter of the Democratic primary votes just by merit of being Allegheny Co. Executive.

  28. Join us in our effort to nominate Josh Shapiro to be the next United States Senator from Pennsylvania.

    Politico calls Josh Shapiro “THE BEST BET FOR DEMOCRATS” – 12/29/14

    Roll Call Says Josh Shapiro is “A STRONG CONTENDER” – 12/4/14

    Like READY FOR JOSH SHAPIRO on Facebook at:

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