Since When did Joe Sestak Come Down with Todd Akin Disease?

John Isaacs, Senior Fellow
Bob Musil, Secretary-Treasurer
Council for a Livable World
April 17, 2015

Since When did Joe Sestak Come Down with Todd Akin Disease?

In 2014, Republicans turned loose their formidable cannons to ward off Senate candidates sure to lose.

The GOP had been scarred by candidates like Todd (“legitimate rape”) Akin in Missouri, Ken (being gay is a choice) Buck in Colorado, Christine (“I am not a witch”) O’Donnell in Delaware and Richard (“life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen”) Mourdock in Indiana.

Now the Washington, D.C. Democratic establishment is treating Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania as if he too has hoof in mouth disease, if not the plague.

What gives?

Joe Sestak is a retired three-star admiral with a 31-year military career who served on the National Security Council before entering politics. He has just the kind of military credentials that both parties lust after. In his first run for the House, Sestak made bringing our troops home from Iraq the centerpiece of his campaign. Running against a ten-term hawkish incumbent Congressman Curt Weldon, Sestak swept to victory by 12 points in a district that had elected only one Democrat to Congress since the Civil War.

Wow – what a loser.

Council for a Livable World endorsed him in that race and every contest since.

Two years later, proving it was no fluke, he won re-election by 20 points.

What does this guy know about politics?

In 2010, Sestak challenged the Democratic establishment by taking on Republican-turned-Democrat Senator Arlen Specter for the Democratic Party nomination.  Specter had the support of the White House, Governor Ed Rendell, labor unions and most Democratic interest groups – not including Council for a Livable World.

Sestak, known as a tenacious campaigner, visited all 67 counties, many multiple times. Less well-known than the Republican and far behind at the beginning of the primary, Sestak surged to an eight percent win despite being greatly outspent.

Hmm, not a bad track record.

The general election, the first mid-term election for President Obama, was a disaster for Democrats. Republicans captured six Democratic seats and control of the House of Representatives. The Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania swept to victory with 54% of the vote and four Democratic House incumbents in the state lost their re-election bids by a margin of 7%-11%.

Joe Sestak fared better than them all, coming close but losing by 80,000 votes out of the four million cast to then-Representative Pat Toomey, a 51%-49% heart breaker.

A lazy candidate? Immediately after losing in 2010, Sestak again went to each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to thank campaign volunteers. Since launching his campaign early in 2014, he held more than 400 events for local county Democrats.

Earlier this year, Sestak took a 422-mile walking tour across the state without a lot of entourage or hangers-on. Just the kind of early small campaign events that Hillary Clinton holding in Iowa and New Hampshire to great praise.

Can’t raise money: Sestak raised more than $13 million in his last campaign.

So what is it with the Washington establishment? Sestak is fiercely independent and defied party elders by running against Specter. He is hard driving and very intense. He works his staff very high.

But what you have is a candidate with a great track record, a formidable fundraiser, the highest ranking military person ever to serve in Congress, a man who out-campaigns all his opponents who will be running in 2016 with a more favorable electorate than in 2010.

Joe Sestak is no sure winner, but he is surely the strongest Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania against Senator Toomey.

Attention Democratic leaders.