Close this search box.

PA-Sen: Shapiro Officially Passes on 2016 Race

ShapiroWell it’s now official, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro is not running for Senate next year.

Shapiro told Tom Fitzgerald of the Inquirer he will not jump into that race.

“I am incredibly humbled and flattered by their interest, but ultimately concluded I am not interested in going to Washington to be a legislator at this stage in my career,” Shapiro told Fitzgerald on Friday.

We’ve known for quite some time that national Democrats were looking to Shapiro to take on Joe Sestak in a Democratic primary. In fact, just last week we learned that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid personally called Shapiro about a bid.

Senate vs. Attorney General in 2016

While some Democrats may be disheartened, Shapiro’s decision actually makes a lot of sense.

As Fitzgerald notes, rumor has it that the Montgomery Commissioner is more interested in running for Attorney General next year. When you look at what a contest for each race would involve, the choice is obvious.

First, the Democrats already have a front-runner in the Senate race. Sestak has been running since narrowly losing in 2010 and has a wide lead in early primary polling. Sure the former Congressman is hated by many party leaders but one word even they would never use to describe Joe Sestak is lazy.

After all, this is the guy that walked the entire length of the commonwealth.

Josh Shapiro would have to beat the indefatigable Sestak in under a year’s time. Then, he would have to take on the well-funded, popular, astute and ascending incumbent GOP Senator Pat Toomey.

Now compare Toomey’s current standing to Kathleen Kane’s. The Attorney General’s future is, to put it most charitably, up in the air. Given all the controversy surrounding Kane, Democrats would likely love it if some other candidate could defeat her in a primary and effectively end the madness.

So instead of giving up his office to begin a mad scramble to take on first Sestak and then Toomey, Shapiro can win re-election this year and then ponder whether to take on Kane. Plus, any money he raises for his re-election can be transferred over to a campaign for Attorney General. He wouldn’t be able to use that money for a U.S. Senate race.

Finally, the rationale behind the move becomes clearer when one considers the 2016 election landscape.

Democrats do much better in presidential years than non-presidential years. Don’t take my word for it, just compare the 2008 and 2012 results to 2010 and 2014.

Pennsylvania has gone blue the last six presidential elections and has been very kind to likely 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the past. Therefore, Shapiro could benefit from Hillary’s coattails.

In contrast, Toomey would be much more likely than any Republican AG nominee to get crossover votes. People are more likely to trust their legislators than obscure candidates for offices in Harrisburg. If voters don’t know much about either candidate, they’re far more likely to resort to choosing by party.

Altogether, when each scenario is placed side-by-side, Shapiro’s decision is completely logical.

27 Responses

  1. Smart move Josh. It is better to be the leader of one of the largest counties in PA, where you actually govern, than to possibly be sitting in the US Senate where partisanship has broken the institution. The executive branch, even at the county level is far more dynamic than a hopelessly polarized legislative branch.

  2. Let us know when you return to Planet Earth, Montco PA Dem. In the meantime, if you’re taking bets, mark me down for my life savings on Toomey +12 lol.

  3. Philadelphia’s Democratic primary holds some lessons. It was a big win for the building trades unions with skilled maneuvering to get the center city Progressives and LGBT vote as well peel off enough black votes from the black candidate. Brilliant political maneuvering, in my view. I would suspect Pat Toomey has met with John Dougherty and, even more likely, Josh Shapiro.

    How Jim Kenney Defied Racial Math and Posted the Biggest Mayoral Primary Win in Modern Philly History
    A by-the-numbers look at the Democratic nominee’s big Tuesday victory.


  4. McGinty will absolutely crush Toomey, especially in a Hillary-led wave year. Can’t wait.

  5. MontCo Dem- Not sure how McGinty leads on enviro issues when she presided over the agency that permitted thousands of shale gas wells without a re-write of the states oil and gas laws, which did not reflect the new drilling technology. Her reign at DEP also includes shelling out plenty of grant $(aka taxpayer funded corporate welfare) on “pie-in-the-sky” biofuel and other failed projects.

  6. FYI – you got it right up until 2016. That one will read:

    Toomey: 44%
    McGinty: 56%

    Katie McGinty, PA’s junior US Senator as of 2017. This will be a whole lot of fun.

  7. Of Course Shapiro isn’t running for US Senate!! He knew he would get crushed by Sestak. Josh just wanted to float his name out there. Does it every two years and then backs down from running.

  8. Seth Williams would have a hard time winning anything statewide. The rest of the state won’ t go for the luggage he comes with. For starters, pics of himself in a hoodie a la trayvon martin posted on the web. And a philadelphia magazine article from a couple years ago that’s not too flattering. And a personal life that is far too visible on Facebook, to the point of silliness. He’s got issues of he wants something statewide and everybody around him knows it. Citywide office in philly, or a congressional seat from philly, would fit him fine cuz no one in Philly cares about that stuff.

  9. 13thDistrictDem-

    Aren’t you tired of pissing away millions of dollars on Sestak with nothing to show for it? He’s tried to divide the party, and undermine (and belittle) down ticket candidates.

    He doesn’t even live in Pennsylvania. Let him sell his house in Virginia and enroll his daughter in a local school to show a real commitment to PA.

  10. Returning to baseline…Josh did what most predicted he would do, for the reasons captured in this essay.

    Perhaps national-Dems will ask DA-Williams to confront Sestak, and then Toomey…mobilizing the black-vote in Philly for the POTUS-race, as well.

    Matters may become clarified shortly…for a ruling that AG-Kane violated a black-letter mandate not to fire anyone who testified would trigger Wolf to pull-the-plug.

  11. Matt- You’re ignoring… FACTS!

    “ticket-splitting has declined in recent years…” Umm… were you alive in 2014 or…?

    “Santorum in 2000 was no where near as well known for being a crank as he was in 2006″… Umm… were you alive in 2000?

    You may try to convince yourself that Sestak is not a flawed candidate all you’d like, but don’t distort the facts. You are to Sestak, what the PA GOP was to Corbett in 2014. In complete denial about what is to come. The PA GOP actually believed Corbett could win reelection in 2014, and you actually believe Sestak can will in 2016. Good luck with that Matty.

    That fact is the national political climate does have some impact on this race, however this is far from a 2006 or wave election scenario. Without a wave election, that clearly benefits incumbents.

    Pennsylvanians are not, at this point, in the mood to defeat their incumbent US Senator, and they definitely don’t want to replace Toomey with a hack like Sestak.

    HIllary will not have the same turnout that Obama had in 2008. Toomey can easily survive 2016, just like Specter in 2004 and Santorum in 2000.

    The only way this changes, in my opinion, is if a wave election somehow develops for the Democrats, which would be unheard-of when a Democratic incumbent is leaving the white house.

    Toomey hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s played it safe. Shapiro was smart to take a pass on this race. Pennsylvanian’s don’t vote out incumbents when their isn’t a smoking gun or wave election. It’s just a fact.

  12. FYI- You’re ignoring the fact that ticket splitting has declined immensely the last 8-10 years. Besides other obvious errors in your attempts to draw parallels from history (Santorum in 2000 was no where near as well known for being a crank as he was in 2006, the partisan composition of the electorate has changed a good deal in the last twenty years), the main mistake you’re making is trying to forecast out of sample. If you’re so confident, go put some money on it at Intrade and attend to other areas of your life while you wait to be vindicated. You’ll be just as right (or wrong) come November whether you’ve rotely repeated your prediction on the comments for every single senate related news story or just the few hundred you’ve already tagged.

  13. The fact that 2016 is a presidential year means absolutely nothing when it comes to an incumbent US Senator seeking reelection in PA. Pennsylvania Dems must wake up and realize that at the end of the day having good candidates does actually matter, and unfortunately, Sestak is just a repeat of Ron Klink in 2000 and Joe Hoeffel in 2004.

    2000 – Al Gore Wins PA and Rick Santorum wins reelection:
    RON KLINK (D) 45%

    2004- John Kerry Wins PA and Arlen Specter wins reelection:
    JOE HOEFFEL (D) 42%

    2016 – Hillary Wins PA and Pat Toomey wins reelection:
    PAT TOOMEY (R) 52%
    JOE SESTAK (D) 48%

    This is started to be pointed out by national pundits such as Larry Sabato and it was eluded to in this very article.

    If Rick Santorum was able to win reelection in a presidential year, it’s even more likely that Pat Toomey can and probably will win reelection in 2016.

    So far, 2016, does not have the makings of a “wave election,” like in 2006 or 2010, which is good for Toomey. If the political environment stays much of the way it is now, I think it benefits incumbency and thus benefits Toomey. I don’t think Hillary takes PA by as much as Obama did in 2008. I think it will be more in line with 2012’s results.

    The real loser continues to be Joe Sestak. He has essentially been running for the job for over 6 years now and he continues to be polling badly against Toomey. In fact, he’s polling worse than he did in 2010.

    At the end of the day, Toomey comes off as more professional, likable and principled. Simply put Pennsylvanians view Toomey as more senatorial.

    I’m not sure how many of you remember the “Democrats for Toomey” tv commercials that ran in the 2010 campaign, but my guess is that more Democrats will once again cast their vote for Toomey if Democrats cannot find a better candidate than Ron Klink, oops, I mean Joe Hoeffel, oops, I mean Joe Sestak.

    Joe Sestak is simply a flawed candidate.

  14. @Diano: We get it. You hate Joe Sestak with the fire of a million suns. All we’re saying is we’re tired of it.

  15. Observer-

    Sestak’s been playing a no-note symphony of empty rhetoric. He’s going around reading from a book he (ie his staffer) wrote (before his walking tour) about what he learned from his walking tour.

    Sestak’s campaigning is nothing but one tired gimmick after another. His new “logo” is a boot print. Of course, that boot print belongs on his ass, kicking him back to where he really lives in Virginia.

    He has been out of office for 5 years, and he hasn’t done squat that the public cares about. He goes on and on about helping ordinary folks, but treats his ordinary staffers like crap. The guy is simply a fraud when it comes to caring about anyone but himself. He’s not “authentic” and doesn’t come across that way.

    Side-by-side on TV, Sestak looks like 5 miles of bad road, while Toomey looks fresh and ready to go.

    I suspect Pawlowski will drop out due to lack of interest/fundraising. But, if he does manage to raise enough to stay in, Sestak would be bankrupted before the primary.

    But, even without a primary, Sestak doesn’t have enough money to go the distance. Beyond his own fundraising, Toomey will be able to attract plenty of super-PAC funding support that will dwarf any support Sestak can find, after pissing off the national Dems.

    Sestak’s only chance is Hillary having huge coattails.

  16. Speak for yourself, Dutchman. Diano’s one-note symphony was tiresome years ago. I’ll be out there urging him to jump.

  17. Another thing about the 2010 race…in my view, that wasn’t so much a Republican wave year as it was a Tea Party “anti-Washington” wave year. Democrats had the misfortune of being the party with large Congressional majorities (i.e, the most to lose).

    Although Sestak was a sitting Congressman, I think he benefited from being perceived as an outsider due to his willingness to buck party leaders and challenge Specter in the primary, to run an independent campaign in the general election, etc. Whereas independent voters punished national Democrats by flipping four Congressional districts (Dahlkemper’s, Sestak’s, Murphy’s and Carney’s) that year, I believe that to some extent Sestak got a pass in his Senate race due to his perceived outsider streak.

    I don’t write this to deny him the credit he deserves for running a strong campaign and nearly pulling off the upset four and a half years ago. I just think this argument trumpeted by his supporters that “a 2 point loss to Toomey in 2010 = a 4 point win over Toomey in 2016” is simplistic and misguided.

  18. acute;pragmatism plus bona fides of service, long term commitment .. .

  19. It’s a shame Shapiro won’t run for Senate. Given the unfortunate change in Kane’s status, this would be an easier lift for Shapiro. However, Seth Williams could jump into the A.G. race (or Senate race) and alter the math.

    The math everyone who supports Sestak forgets is that Sestak’s loss by 2 points was in a race for an open seat. Toomey is now an incumbent, who has been very careful to be non controversial. He’s also raising tons more money than Sestak. This is probably worth another 5 points.

    The national dems could simply abandon Sestak and put their resources into races like Russ Feingold’s.

    The Hillary campaign is going to suck up the best volunteers and staffers. Sestak will scraping the dregs who can’t get onto a good campaign.

  20. The only Democratic candidate for AG more qualified than Josh Shapiro is….Kathleen Kane.

  21. We may never get to see this, but Katie McGinty would beat Sestak in a primary and, if she ran against Toomey on environmental and women’s issues, would beat him too.

  22. Shapiro was smart not making the race. A tough primary, a rough general, and if you win, what do you get? Now he has to hope kathleen kane sees the light and bows out gracefully before tom wolf puts down the hammer.

  23. Somebody please go out to the Commodore Barry Bridge and tell David Diano not to jump. We love him and he has so much to live for.

  • Do you agree that ByteDance should be forced to divest TikTok?

    • Yes. It's a national security risk. (60%)
    • No. It's an app used by millions and poses no threat. (40%)
    • What's ByteDance? (0%)

    Total Voters: 30

    Loading ... Loading ...
Continue to Browser


To install tap and choose
Add to Home Screen