August 4th, 2009
02:53 PM ET
9 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. 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 |
  2. Gary

    Good go for it.

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

    Specter is gone either way. Let them slug it out in the primaries...PA is done with the has been joke that is Arlen Specter...Time to retire old man..

    August 4, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    Okay Joe, where can I send my campaign contribution?

    August 4, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. Carole

    I am from Pennsylvania and love Democracy. However, I hope whomever loses throws his support to the victor. Otherwise, I will see this as an ego ploy.

    August 4, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. JESSE

    Not smart... particularly in a gubernatorial election year. We'll have these 2 candidates tearing it up while Toomey builds a warchest. Im going with the sure bet, Arlen Specter. Sestak is unknown and losing to Toomey. We as Dems do not negative campaigning in PA.

    August 4, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  7. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Make Arlen Spector scream Joe, sent him to a long overdue retirement.

    August 4, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. Terry from Texas

    We certainly don't need another Conservative Senator or a stealth Conservative to play with his possible swing vote. Sestak, no matter what his weaknesses, should be elected.

    August 4, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. moses

    No negative campaigning in PA? Are you crazy? It's almost as bad as NJ. And may I remind you that Specter is not even close to being a true dem. Also, remember that BO had the backing of most of the party bigiwgs in the primary and still lost to Hillary by about 10 pts. BTW Specter already fired the first negative shot by calling Sestak a fake dem because he was registered independent while in the service. He conveniently neglected to point out that he, himself was repub during the same time. Great logic there, Arlen.

    August 4, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  10. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Sestak can not beat Toomey so why would any Democrate vote for Sestak if we want the Dems to keep this seat?

    August 4, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  11. montag24

    Specter was just a yes-man for both Reagan and Bush. He's a political opportunist who just goes whichever way the wind is blowing.

    I live in Oregon, but I'll be sending a campaign contribution to Mr. Sestak.

    Goodbye, Arlen.

    August 4, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Charles

    Spector should just retire, the only reason he changed parties was to stay in the senate, Spector just want's for himself, retire let someone else have a turn.

    August 4, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. liberals must go

    every Pennsylvanian needs to vote for Toomey. Show these liberal democrats and wannabees like Spector that we don't buy their crap, we're not paying for their illegals and we want our country back.

    August 4, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  14. gary

    all i need to know about spector is he was the one who came up with the single bullet therory in the kennedy assassination that little fairy tale tells me all i need to know about this joker, i have read over 25 books on jfks assassination and spector is a dupe for the government

    August 4, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  15. lovable liberal

    Question: Does Pennsylvania want a senator who believes in something, or does is want Specter?

    August 4, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  16. DebM, Allentown, PA

    As long as we defeat Toomey, I don't care. I'll throw my support to whomever takes the Dem primary.

    August 4, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  17. rob

    Charles hit the nail on the head. Spector only cares about his Political career, not his constituents. He switched parties because he stood no chance of being re-elected if he didn't. Those are his own words. He's in it for himself, not us!

    August 4, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  18. go get 'em

    down with the GOP

    up rises the independants

    August 4, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  19. Joanna in PA

    Say it aint so Joe! Delco needs you. Save us from the GOP media court house. You know how they are. In Delco you must be a member of the GOP or they will go after you. TRUTH!

    August 4, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    I hope he beats the pants off of that slime ball specter.

    August 4, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  21. Willy Brown

    PA how's that change and hope working for you?

    August 4, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  22. Proud Member..Party of No

    Vote for Toomey. Throw Arlen Sphincter out!

    August 4, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  23. Fool me once shame on u, fool me twice... err...

    Can Arlen Specter be relied on to vote for HCR with a public option? If not, I'll be contributing to Admiral Sestak's campaign to unseat Specter.

    I'm sick of Democrats who are not willing to lead and bring the change the country needs but instead have to hide behind smoke screens like "blue dog".

    August 4, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. bsmith171

    let's get rid of Specter once and for all.

    August 4, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. Zero.

    Not the White House.... Not Barack Obama.... He has done nothing.
    Bill Clinton did it as usual. How can the white-house have anything to do with North Korea.... When there is no immediate Glory for Obama, they always shut-up...

    August 4, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
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