PA-Sen: EXCLUSIVE: Interview with the Man Behind the “Draft McGinty” Campaign

Draft McGintyEver since the FBI walked into Allentown City Hall and ended Ed Pawlowski’s Senate hopes, Katie McGinty has been the new Democratic hope to fill the role of alternative to Joe Sestak.

Since then, the Inquirer has reported that national Democratic leaders and Congressman Bob Brady have encouraged the Governor’s Chief of Staff to run.

John Sharpless, however, was ahead of all them when he created the “Draft McGinty” campaign last month. He set up a Twitter account and even uploaded a DIY video to YouTube.

“It’s no secret that within the party, and not just within the party, there has been an outcry for a leader of the future,” Sharpless told PoliticsPA when asked why he created the movement.

Last year, Sharpless was a Tom Wolf supporter in the gubernatorial primary. He was impressed, however, by the way McGinty conducted herself during that contest.

“After it was over, there were two winners,” he asserted.

Sharpless described the two goals of the initiative as: “1. Create some energy among the base. 2. Prepare people for a unifying candidate.”

McGinty is a much more electable candidate in his eyes than Joe Sestak.

“Sestak simply can not win this seat,” he said. “Pennsylvanians vote for the most likable candidate that they trust. That’s where Joe Sestak drops the ball.”

Throughout the conversation, he described what he saw as a complacency in the Democratic Party. In his opinion, Democrats are just assuming that with Hillary Clinton atop the ticket, any Senate candidate will prevail.

Several times during our conversation, Sharpless noted that this strategy didn’t work for 2000 Senate nominee Ron Klink and 2004 Senate nominee Joel Hoeffel, who lost to Senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter respectively.

In contrast, he feels a ticket combining the potential first female President with the potential first female Senator from PA would be much more effective.

Finally, he raised the spectre of Joe Sestak on the national stage at the 2016 DNC in Philly.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see or hear what that would be like, except Joe Sestak.”

Sharpless is currently working with a handful of other supporters and says some local party leaders and environmental activists have reached out to encourage him.

As for the future, there’s been discussions of rallies, fundraising and additional videos. For the most part, though, they’re waiting on Katie McGinty to give a definitive answer.

Just like the rest of the state.

36 Responses

  1. An opportunist that is reposting a two year old piece. What a joke, wannabe kingmaker. Especially since we see how his 2016 pics worked out.

  2. It is interesting that John Sharpless once endorsed Alyson Schwartz. Seems like a political opportunist to me.

  3. The fact that Sestak opposed Allyson Schwartz and Tim Holden are two more reasons I like him. Both are disgraceful politicians who were bought and paid for by special interests. Schwartz is now a high paid lobbyist for health insurance interests that she has shilled for for years while in Congress. Holden was himself embroiled in scandal and charges of corruption. Sestak is to be commended for opposing such “Democrats,” and if the Leadership holds that against him it says more about them than it does about Sestak. You folks seem to be so offended when people put principle ahead of “party loyalty.” That is why Democrats keep losing elections, especially here in Pa. The electorate is far more principled and progressive than the Party Machine, and voters here have decided some time ago that simply having a “D” in front of one’s name is no reason to vote for them. That is why I will never vote for Hillary Clinton, even if she wins the nomination. On primary day I will happily vote for Bernie Sanders and I may write him in come November. Party loyalty is for Party hacks.

  4. Not to mention:

    He supported a write-in candidate over Allyson Schwartz in her 2012 reelection campaign. He supported Cartwright over Incumbent Tim Holden during his reelection campaign. Sestak has a LONG history of pissing people off and burning bridges!
    Rob McCord gave away info on Pawlowski in exchange for a lighter sentence. Pawlowski endorsed McCord in the guv primary. Here’s where it gets interesting… McCord throws his supporters under the bus, guess who else worked for the McCord campaign? Joe’s now deceased brother, Richard Sestak. Sestak’s campaign is under the microscope too. Just wait for the next hat to drop… Couldn’t get any better, self-destructing politicians.

  5. That’s not the “only” argument they have against Sestak. Sestak refused to work with the coordinated campaign (and refused to pay workers minimum wage). He ran in the primary on the promise to “lead the ticket”, but once the primary was over he abandoned the ticket and the Democratic party name (removing it from ads and from new t-shirts).

    Sestak “worked hard” on the campaign, because he worked stupidly. (The opposite of work smarter not harder.)

    Also, Sestak started that whole “job gate” mess that damaged Obama and the party. When he was asked if he was offered “Secretary of Navy” he acted very coy. He was being a total @sshole, because he knew very well that he was ineligible to be Secretary of Navy (he hadn’t been out of the Navy long enough). So, rather than acknowledge his ineligibility, he claimed he couldn’t talk about it, leaving the impression there was something to talk about.

    Rendell (and every other Democrat) knew/knows that Sestak would happy tear down the party in spite if he can’t get his way.

    THAT is why the party doesn’t want him on the ticket.

  6. The only argument Governor Rendell and his crew have against Joe Sestak is that he didn’t step aside for Specter. They just can’t let go of the fact that they couldn’t control him six years. What they don’t want to admit was his constituents in PA7 loved him as their congressman. He worked hard, had great constituent services, and was supportive of the local party and candidates. We were sorry to lose him in Congress, but supported his race for Senate. Rendell and friends should get behind Sestak now and stop encouraging another messy primary. How do they expect to get the seat away from Toomey if there is an expensive, destructive primary? It is time for them to put their egos aside and support the candidate who can win.

  7. I’m a strong advocate of Democratic women candidates. And I think McGinty is a class act. BUT the guys are using her for their own purposes. And that is not a good thing for her or for the party.

  8. It is a kick-up for McGinty. Folks are desperate to get this co-governor out of Harrisburg.

  9. @Bobguzzardi

    You have your nerve to talk about who’s a Patriot when your wonderful chamber of commerce took foreign money to defeat Democrats in 2010. Such Patriots you are!

    Your bud Rushy boy is losing sponsors left and right. I can’t believe you still listen to him. I thought he was going to leave America already? Ask him to buy a plane ticket with a seat next to him for you as well.

  10. To DelcoDemWoman:
    You alluded to the fact that Tom Wolf sailed to victory but had no coattails. I think it is clear that Wolf sailed to victory because he ran as a proud progressive who was not beholden to the Democratic machine many Democrats like me have grown to despise. Wolf had no coattails because people liked what he had to say, and people who vote for that reason generally do not vote a straight party ticket. Wolf stands out as one of the few Democrats in the country who swept to victory in 2014. Part of the reason was the awful record compiled by Governor Corbett, but a big part of it, and the reason he had no coattails, was that people liked what Wolf had to say and did not think he represented Democratic politics as usual. I actually did vote a straight Democratic ticket in 2014, but it was because I thought every Democratic candidate was someone I could vote for, for a change. The only candidate I passionately supported though was Tom Wolf.

  11. As a Rush Limbaugh, RedState Ted Cruz Constitutional Conservative Republican, I have no insight into the dynamics of Democratic party politics. From my perspective, however, Dave Diano is, surprisingly, at last, right about something:

    Dave Diano Toomey isn’t the SLIGHTEST bit worried about Sestak. He’s more worried about high Dem turnout for Hillary giving her coattails, especially with women. If he could pick his Dem opponent, Sestak would likely be his first choice to run against.

    I have met Joe Sestak and there is something repulsive and smarmy about him. He was a US Admiral and one would think he would be an American Nationalist, a proponent of America as a force, including a military force, for good in the world but one gets the feeling he is a guy who thinks America is a force for exploitation and oppression in the world. Someone who thinks America needs to “fundamentally change”. His arrogance is,also, not well concealed. He knows what is best for the rest of us.

    Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again may not resonate with Leftists but there are a lot of FDR/Harry Truman/JFK Democrats who think their country is a good place with good people and good ideas. There was a time when Democrats were patriots. It seems to have passed. I have to think Union Democrats are patriots, too. Union Democrats are, surely, not pro-amnesty.

    However, as I understand it, Katie McGinty is a Rendell Democrat and Rendell (Comcast/NBC/MSNBCUniversal) are all in for Pat Toomey so it seems to me unlikely Katie McGinty would be able to get substantial financial support.

    Finally, as I said, I am a Rush Limbaugh Red State Ted Cruz Constitutional Conservative Republican and fiscal conservative, and I can tell you that Pat Toomey is a moderate, center right moderate. Pat Toomey is a terrifically nice guy, very, very smart and an excellent retail politician and I support him 100%. However, reality is that he is not where I am on policies.

    As for Mrs. Clinton, will Democrats vote for someone they don’t trust? And, recently,she is vulnerable on both the Sanctuary City issue (28-year-old Milton Mateo Garcia is Philadelphia’s Willie Horton and I should point out that illegal Mexican immigration is not helpful to black voters) as well as her anti-gun position which will not play well outside some parts of the southeast Pennsylvania.

    So, although Sen. Toomey needs to worry, I think he will be okay.

  12. My last post, in case you didn’t figure it out, should have read “both the Wolf and McGinty” campaigns. Maybe it was a Freudian slip.

  13. Anyone who thinks that Katie McGinty wasn’t being set up to run for Senate as far back as 2013 needs to get a grip. The idea floated more than once here as far back as February 2014. Where shall we start? The firm of Isenhour-Rooney, better known as the bag people for Rendell’s machine, took on both the Wolf and Isenhour campaigns. Since there can only be one, next stop for her after the 2014 primary loss was state party chairwoman, where it was assumed she could bring in Democratic money and favors. Uh, no. So they created their own party and in the doing sunk every single Democratic challenger for the legislature. Nice job. Did anyone think she was making the Podunk whistlestop tour through PA just as a favor to Tom Wolf, or to get the COS job, or for the benefit of candidates they had no intention of helping with more than a web page at Fresh Start PA? Come on, raise your hands if you did! Don’t be embarrassed.

  14. The McGinty gubernatorial campaign was a sham. It was orchestrated by the Rendell machine to help Wolf. She may be nice. She may be a “class act.” But, a candidate needs a little more than those qualities to get my vote. Also, a candidate cannot work for firms that support fracking to get my vote. I’m not a Sestak fan, but would vote for him before I’d vote for another Rendell machine candidate.

  15. “Jerry Policoff: Toomey is already running attack ads against Sestak, a sure sign that he is worried about him.”

    Or maybe it’s because he’s the only person in the race not named Everett Stern.

  16. This post and some comments are hilarious! I love Katie McGinty,she’s wonderful and Sestak will annilate her then ensure another Toomey win. Sometimes my party refuses to be in the business of winning elections. That strategy is working out real well. Thanks “progressives” for a super right wing federal and state government. Sestak is our best shot at beating Toomey. Even Rendell knows we can’t count on Hillary coattails in big numbers, two – three points if any. Remember the Wolf coattails? Exactly.

  17. Jerry Policoff-

    Sestak wants a primary challenger as much as he wants a case of herpes (which is about as much as the Democratic party wants him).

    Sestak is blustering when he asks for challengers as a “show of force”/bluff to pretend he isn’t worried. He obviously feels he is the only one entitled/deserving to run. Such is his ego.

    Rendell is acknowledging, in so many words, that Sestak is a spoiled brat and a total pr*ck who would bring down the party out of spite if he wasn’t the nominee. So, the party can’t find anyone willing to go up against Sestak, knowing what a poisonous viper he is, and how he’d damage the party during a primary run.

    Toomey isn’t the SLIGHTEST bit worried about Sestak. He’s more worried about high Dem turnout for Hillary giving her coattails, especially with women. If he could pick his Dem opponent, Sestak would likely be his first choice to run against.

    In 2010, the primary with Specter raised Sestak’s name recognition, and Toomey was not as well known. Toomey was lucky to have a lot more money, since Sestak voided Specter’s $10 million cash-on-hand.

    This cycle, Toomey is again ahead in fundraising, and Sestak’s has languished. Toomey is great at (falsely) positioning himself as a moderate. Spending $$$ now/early is very good bang-for-the-buck for Toomey, since Sestak cannot afford to respond. This tragedy is VERY smart/effective as Sestak would have to spend 2-1 or 3-1 to reverse the perception of Toomey later in the game. Sestak won’t even have 1-1 to spend.

    This allows Toomey to build a solid foundation for himself and solidify his hold on the middle by building a wall Sestak cannot breach.

    Given presidential Dem turnout, Toomey isn’t taking any chances. It’s like the Tortoise and the Hare. Only, Toomey is the Hare and is deciding not to “nap” (but out of f*cking common sense, not fear).

    Toomey’s got the money to spend (just like Wolf did to establish himself early to voters). He also gets to test/probe Sestak’s response (speed, arguments, budget).

    Regarding Hillary: “Much of her support seems to spring from the fact that most Democrats think she is the inevitable candidate”.
    Correction: she’s inevitable because of her support.

    The progressive Dems aren’t going to sit home and let one of these GOP idiots beat Hillary. She will either adopt enough progressive positions to appear palatable, pick a VP that progressives like, and/or work out a deal with Warren/Sanders to endorse her strongly. I can assure you that despite their misgivings about Hillary, they prefer her over anyone in the GOP camp, especially with 3-4 Supreme Court nominations likely during the next decade.

    tommyd- “press releases” are low-hanging fruit. Sestak sends out press released all the time responding to Toomey’s weekly newsletter. Who bothers to read/cover Sestak’s press releases?

  18. I also must comment on all of the confidence exhibited around here on how strong a juggarnaut Hillary Clinton would be if she headed the ticket, and how her coattails would sweep other Democrats into office. Hillary continues to run well ahead in the national polls, but if you actually analyze the polls, many who say they prefer her are anything but enthusiastic. Much of her support seems to spring from the fact that most Democrats think she is the inevitable candidate. It is a fact that people will voice support to pollsters for a candidate they believe will win. This happened in 2007-8 as well, and as it became clear that she was vulnerable her numbers started to fall. Hillary’s numbers are already falling. The number of voters who say they would never vote for her is rising. So is the percentage of people who simply do not trust her. I predict that if Hillary wins the nomination millions of progressive Democrats will simply stay home rather than vote for her. She is no juggernaut. She is a liability, and she could well lose the election, even against this pathetic GOP field.

  19. Toomey’s people are sending out press releases, gloating over the Democratic leadership’s attacks on Sestak. That tells me Toomey is afraid of Sestak, and he should be. All this Democrat talk of people not trusting Sestak is not coming from grassroots Democrats, but from political operatives.

    That’s not to take anything away from McGinty, who is a class act and could also beat Toomey, especially with Clinton at the top of the ticket.

  20. Some of the “logic” I see posted on this site is truly amazing. e.g. Toomey barely squeaked by against Sestak in 2010 (in a year when all the other Republicans won easily), therefore he is praying to face Sestak again, and if he faces McGinty (who came in a distant fourth in a field of four when she ran for Govcernor) Toomey loses. Is this why the Democrats are having such a hard time recruiting anyone to challenge Sestak? I was amused to read what Ed Rendell said of Sestak in this morning’s paper. Rendell is clearly no fan of Sestak’s, but he predicted no one would come forward to challenge Sestak, and he implied a grudging admiration for him, saying that what he accomplished in 2010 by successfully challenging Specter and almost winning the election was “truly amazing.” Rendell does not seem to agree with all the naysayers around here that suggest that Sestak is a born loser. I notice that Sestak continues to welcome, even encourage, a primary challenge. He does not seem to be afraid of competition in the primary. I too would be shocked if anyone took him up on it. The Democrats cannot possibly relish a crushing primary defeat if they run someone against Sestak, and I have no doubt that they would encounter one. Toomey is already running attack ads against Sestak, a sure sign that he is worried about him.

  21. David, Kane’s “recent difficulties”? You mean, starting about six months into her administration and getting worse ever since?

  22. John-

    In 2009, the draft Sestak for senate “grassroots” movement was set up by Sestak himself. That’s a really low bar.

    Montco PA Dem

    “And McGinty’s name has been floated here as a possible Senate candidate since February if you check back”

    Actually, her name came up a few times even before she lost the Gov primary if Kane didn’t run.

    If Kane had not run into her recent difficulties as AG, she’d be a shoe-in to beat Toomey.

    The Hillary factor would be big for any female candidate, as record numbers of women are going to register to vote to be part of history elected the first woman president.

  23. Name the stakes, Larry. If the general is Toomey-McGinty, I’m ready to bet on Katie. This is a nightmare matchup that Pat Toomey wants no part of.

  24. Montco Dem, you may be overestimating the benefit of Hillary on the ticket. Even Dems are unenthusiastic about her. By your rationale, Kathleen Kane will have a shot because of Hillary. A much better indicator of McGinty’s chances is her (horrible) performance in the last Governor’s race.

  25. If Katy McGinty gets in the race Toomey loses. Toomey barely squeaked by when he beat Sestak in a year when Republicans were winning by double digits everywhere else. Toomey goes to bed every night praying for a Sestak rematch. Toomey’s a right wing nut and is unfit to represent the interests of Pennsylvania.


  27. There is no movement. Ready for Hillary is a movement, Draft McGinty is barely recognizable. I assume this will be as close as her Governor’s primary…and if she somehow beats Sestak, good luck beating Toomey. Not going to happen, no matter who the D is.

  28. Larry, I’ll be happy to take that bet. Sen. McGinty wins and wins big with Hillary at the head of the ticket, taking on Toomey in the two areas he can’t defend: women’s issues and the environment.

  29. The Shapiro campaign sure looked a lot like the Draft McGinty pages. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is also responsible.

    And McGinty’s name has been floated here as a possible Senate candidate since February if you check back.

  30. One person sets up a facebook page, a twitter account and a DIY video, and that qualifies as a grassroots “movement?” That bar has been set low indeed. The big question PoliticsPA leaves unasked is, is Sharpless the same guy who was behind the “Ready For Josh Shapiro” campaign?

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