August 4th, 2009
02:53 PM ET
5 years ago

Sestak officially launches primary challenge

Rep. Joe Sestak officially declared his candidacy for the the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.
Rep. Joe Sestak officially declared his candidacy for the the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Joe Sestak officially declared his candidacy for the the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania Tuesday, setting up a primary season showdown with incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter.

Although his campaign team has been sharply critical of Specter since he began considering a run, Sestak focused on policy matters in his announcement - the economy, health care and other challenges.

"These problems, when I am your senator, are not going to just disappear overnight - I can't promise you that," he said. "But I can promise you that you will have working for you the hardest working senator. That you will have the most honest of senators, the most accountable of senators. You will have the most caring of senators, and you will have the senator with the most energy."

As for Specter: "We are where we are today, and if everybody's happy with that, he's your guy."


Much of Sestak's chance of success is based on the idea that he represents a pure progressive alternative to Specter - a candidate who could peel away disaffected liberal voters unhappy with the prospect of casting their ballot for Specter, the former Republican.

Sestak makes a pitch to these voters in a video on his campaign's Web site - the lawmakers Pennsylvania have sent to Washington, he says, have failed the state's residents.

Shortly after the announcement, which took place at a VFW hall in his district, the Philadelphia-area congressman sent a fundraising message to supporters, a move that underscored one of the massive hurdles he'll have to clear to capture his party's nod.

Sestak trails Specter in the money chase, but he boasts a sizeable campaign war chest: At the end of June, Sestak had just over $4 million in the bank, around $3 million less than the incumbent.

And a Quinnipiac poll released late last month indicated that Specter, who's received the public backing of President Obama and party leaders since his defection from the Republican Party this spring, still holds a greater than 2-to-1 advantage over Sestak, with a 55 percent to 23 percent advantage in a hypothetical Democratic primary matchup.

The same poll also suggested that Specter's 20-point edge over prospective GOP challenger Pat Toomey had vanished.


Filed under: Arlen Specter • Joe Sestak
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Larry

    I hope Pennsylvania votes this guy in. Specter is another politician who's been in Washington too long.

    August 4, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  2. George

    Good for him. He will back the Emloyee Free choice Act. Specter backed it too when he knew that old Bushie would veto it. Sestak will
    fight for the middle class.

    August 4, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. Kevin in Ohio

    Love it when the democrats eat their own.

    August 4, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. GOP = Party of Tolerance

    When Specter changed parties he lost both his seniority, his influence and his last vestige of credibility. By insisting that he serve until he dies in office, Spector along with Byrd and Kennedy is turning the US Senate into his own personal nursing home. Going scenile is no reason to retire because your staff (i.e. nursing home aides) does all the work for you. Time for Spector to retire and give someone else a chance to serve.

    August 4, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. Brian- Palm Bay, FL

    Vote out all incumbents. Its not about party its about country and very few of these folks are getting the job done!

    August 4, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Joe, Chicago IL

    Poor Arlen. His new party promised him love, protection and keeping his sub-committees' senority.

    I guess all he has left is love.

    August 4, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. Vincent Petrosino

    Sestak is a stubborn fool! He has just gambled away his congressional career. Arlen Specter is an institution in PA. He is honest, clear-minded, intelligent and fair. He is a cancer survivor who continued to serve my state through harrowing treatments for Hodgkins' disease. Sestak is a junior rep without the backing of the Dems in his own state. When Rendell and Co. tell you NOT to run, you better listen. I know I worked for Obama in the PA Primary when Hillary Clinton had his support. And we lost by 10 points. And when Rendell threw his support to Obama in the election, Obama took the state despite the vast number of GOP diehards in the middle of this state/ Need I say more?

    August 4, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Doctor E

    We got rid of that fascist Santorum, Now it's time for PA to dump the reactionary Specter.

    The barriers to change must be toppled!

    August 4, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Sestak is wasting his time and money, but I say go for it. He will not beat a well know Senate and he knows that just trying to make news.

    August 4, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. jeremy, pa

    Sestak does NOT stand a chance

    August 4, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Much of Sestak's chance of success is based on the idea that he represents a pure progressive alternative to Specter — a candidate who could peel away disaffected liberal voters unhappy with the prospect of casting their ballot for Specter, the former Republican.

    --------------------------------
    Sorry this move have been done before with the selection of Sara Palin to peel away disaffected liberal voters of Hiliary Clinton. You can not get elected on the count of unhappy voters with in a party if you do not have a plan.

    August 4, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  12. bozo the obama

    Hasta la bye-bye traitor.

    August 4, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. Kris in AL

    Good Luck Benedict Arlen!

    August 4, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. gt

    good ,, new blood ,, new ideas,,,out with the old in with the new ,,no more life time politians,, from either party

    August 4, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Carl

    Issues aside...Democrats need to be concerned about Arlen Specter's age and health in this race. Specter will be 80 years old in 2010...and running for a new 6 year term in the United States Senate. Should he be unable to complete that service, the next PA governor would choose his successor. PA will elect a new governor in 2010. If Ed Rendell's replacement is a Republican...most likely the popular current attorney general, Tom Corbett...he will certainly appoint a Republican to Specter's Senate seat. So even if Specter should survive a challenge from Sestak...in the primary...and another from Toomey in the general election, the PA seat could still end up on the GOP side of the aisle.

    August 4, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. johnnie

    Is this suppose to SCARE Spector, he has his BESTsupporter backing him, President Barack Obama

    August 4, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. Karen

    Quite frankly, Specter needs to retire

    August 4, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. Enlightened Voter

    As a resident of PA he will definitely get my vote over any republican challenger. The republicans have ruined this country enough! NO MORE REPUBLICANS!

    August 4, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  19. A. Goodwin

    If he will help pass health care reform, Pennsylvanian's should hook him up with this job!

    August 4, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. jon c. sprowl

    whoe cares ,their both loosers. vote them out

    August 4, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  21. Jefe

    Specter is done. I don't even know much about him, and don't care to, but its clear he's not going to make it this time around. I hope Penn either gets a Republican who doesn't hate the Constitution or a Blue Dog Dem.

    August 4, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. Keith in Austin

    Turncoat Specter is toast! No body respects selling one's conscience for political gains, Arlen!

    August 4, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  23. john

    He was great on "Land of the Lost." I would vote for him . . .

    August 4, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. jeanne

    WOW!!!!You sure can raise alot of money........why don't you raise the money with all your rich buddies for the War Veterans Memorial in Edgemont (where your from) instead of getting your mug in the local paper everyday and name dropping all your buddies...who cares who runs.....

    August 4, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  25. reggie

    Specter has really damaged his prospects for reelection. Did you see how badly he has been shouted down at his recent townhall meetings? I think his days in the senate are numbered.

    August 4, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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