Joe Sestak

Democrats Saying ‘NO', good news if

Nancy Pelosi hasn’t backed down. The tax reduction for the rich isn't stimulus but what amounts to pork for the rich. The rebellious Democrats I think might end up good news even for Obama. Obama over the years has put a lot of time in trying to be an unbiased arbitrator even as he ran for President. So progressives shouldn’t be surprised that he doesn’t fight hard for what most think he believes. There are a lot of Lame Duck Representatives that should be particular appealed to, to vote against the tax-cut smorgasbord. Particularly locally Joe Sestak.

President Obama’s problems are similar to a teacher or professor who has a friend or a relative in class, and when mediating a dispute between students, the friend kept saying “yes” to suggested compromises and the other student or students keep saying “not enough”, giving the appearance of always deciding in favor of those who have no relation to the teacher.

Awful Campaign Ad files: Xenophobia and the PA Senate Race

I’ve read about them, but it’s only recently that I’ve actually seen the anti-Toomey attack ads on the few television shows I watch. And, you know, that xenophobia thing just isn't working for me.

This ad has a sister version featuring the sound of a broken fortune cookie while the narrator says, “Pat Toomey. He’s really not for you.”

Gongs AND fortune cookies! There's so much to go after in Pat Toomey. Sending jobs overseas isn't off-limits either - but parlaying in xenophobia offends as well as clouds the message.

These ads are apparently part of a national trend reported last month by the New York Times on the latest punching bag from both political parties: China.

With many Americans seized by anxiety about the country’s economic decline, candidates from both political parties have suddenly found a new villain to run against: China.

From the marquee battle between Senator Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina in California to the House contests in rural New York, Democrats and Republicans are blaming one another for allowing the export of jobs to its economic rival.

In the past week or so, at least 29 candidates have unveiled advertisements suggesting that their opponents have been too sympathetic to China and, as a result, Americans have suffered.

The ads are striking not only in their volume but also in their pointed language.

One ad for an Ohio congressman, Zack Space, accuses his Republican opponent, Bob Gibbs, of supporting free-trade policies that sent Ohioans’ jobs to China. As a giant dragon appears on the screen, the narrator sarcastically thanks the Republican: “As they say in China, xie xie Mr. Gibbs!”

According to the Times, the anti-China sentiments are bi-partisan, 19 from Dems (including PA’s Jason Altmire) and 10 from Republicans. But that doesn’t make them any less bizarre or alienating, especially from the Democratic end. For example, the ad referenced by the Times above from Congressman Space (D-OH) uses images of a San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration to strike terror in the hearts of all those fearful of, er, gongs, fortune cookies, lion dancers and foreign tongues. Because when you're dealing in stereotypes what's it matter whether it's Asian or Asian American?

So, while I may be voting tomorrow for Sestak, I’ll be doing so with somewhat less enthusiasm, and it will be based on Pat Toomey’s record and what I still hope are Congressman Sestak’s principles and beliefs about making Pennsylvania better. Because in a state where we’ve received national attention for anti-immigrant sentiments, adding another layer to that damaging echo chamber just isn’t what PA needs.

State Party Says Jump. Voters Say... Pass the Popcorn.

Ed Rendell, last year:

Gov. Rendell thinks that Sestak would "get clobbered" in next year's Democratic primary, ticking off the reasons why Sestak has "practically no chance" against Specter, who is well-known across the state and likely will have an inexhaustible supply of campaign cash.

"What in God's name is he doing?" Rendell exclaimed.

TJ Rooney, chair of the Democratic party, in January:

Rooney, who's backing Specter, said it would be a "travesty" to lose Sestak in Congress. He said he also believes Specter has proven his Democratic bona fides since jumping to the party last year.

"Looking specifically at the poll numbers, Sestak has picked up no momentum," Rooney said. "He's actually fallen behind ... if Joe Sestak were to run for re-election to Congress, he'd win."

TJ Rooney, last week:

The chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party issued a stern warning to members of his party this week, declaring that nominating Rep. Joe Sestak over Sen. Arlen Specter could have "cataclysmic" consequences for the party's ability to hold the Senate seat this fall.

As polls show Sestak, a second-term House member from the Philadelphia suburbs, cutting Specter's advantage to single digits, Chairman T.J. Rooney told POLITICO in an interview that "if we want to keep this seat in Democratic hands, the only person capable of delivering that victory is Arlen Specter."
"I can't say, honest and true, if the shoe's on the other foot, that we'll have the same race in November," Rooney said. "The results could be cataclysmic."

On a personal level, I have some affection for Arlen Specter. His personality vaguely reminds me of my late grandfather, who was one my favorite people in the world. So, frankly, I feel for him. But, still, this was a great night, and I take away a few things from it:

First, in races like this, where candidates are on TV a lot, the endorsement of various groups, and especially various politicians just doesn't matter that much.

Second, it is hard for long time Republicans to win Democratic primaries. That sounds obvious, but, I never got why anyone seemed to miss that point. Yes, Democrats had affection for Specter- but, that was when he was a Republican that we could occasionally count on to do something good, and to annoy his party. But, once you switch parties, you will be evaluated under a much different light. That happened, especially when Sestak did what we knew he would do- remind everyone that just six years ago, Bush and Santorum knew that they could "count on" him.

Now, we have Sestak. He is far from perfect, but he would be a pretty good Senator. And he is up against someone who has a view of government and the world that truly needs to be highlighted. It is time for all hands on deck.

Enough Is Enough: Joe Sestak for U.S. Senate

The backslide to the right stops here, if you want it.

Every election has results, so every election counts, but this year’s Senate election in Pennsylvania counts more than most.

Joe Sestak’s campaign for U.S. Senate has taken on national resonance because the Democrats who swept into office in 2008, capturing the White House and both houses of Congress, have stopped acting like Democrats and have certainly lost the mojo that should go along with such a historic victory.

As MoveOn rightly states in their endorsement of Sestak Friday:

Joe Sestak has a strong record in Congress, supporting health care reform, clean energy, and a woman's right to choose. If he wins the primary on Tuesday, it'll send a powerful message that voters want Democrats in Congress who'll proudly lead the fight for progressive legislation.

National DFA's Jim Dean Comes to Philly to Stump for Joe Sestak Saturday

(Sestak now in the lead in one poll- Dan)

National progressives are taking notice, as Joe Sestak has pulled even with Arlen Specter, in the race for the Senate, according to the latest Muhlenberg daily tracking poll.

Open Left, Daily Kos, Atrios, MyDD, and Talking Points Memo all have hailed Sestak's surge.

Saturday at 2:30, Democracy For America national chair Jim Dean (Howard's brother), pulls into Philly to stump for Sestak at a Pre-Mother's Day Rally at Bardascino Park, 10th and Carpenter Street, in the Italian Market area.

Specter and Sestak Support Immigrant Youth, Cosponsor the DREAM Act

Each year in the U.S., 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school with limited options for higher education or employment. Many undocumented youth were brought to this country as children, even infants, by their parents. They are indistinguishable in every way but one from their citizen friends, classmates, and siblings: they don’t have a piece of paper that says they can stay here.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) would change that. The Act would provide conditional legal status to applicants who:

Patrick Murphy on Ending Don't Ask/Don't Tell at Philly For Change Meetup

Wednesday night's Philly For Change Meetup offers a chance to meet, talk to, and show your support for an important leader working on a huge Civil Rights issue as Congressman and Iraq War vet Patrick Murphy stops by to discuss the legislation he's sponsoring to end the nation's bigoted Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy.

State Senator and Appropriations Committee member Larry Farnese explains the biggest local issue of the moment -- the State Budget -- from the inside and answer questions about what we can do the get the best possible State Budget.

That other huge issue -- Health Care Reform -- gets an update from Health Care for America Now's (and YPP's) Marc Stier, who'll discuss Thursday's big event and plot the preservation of the public option and what we can do to help get it to the finish line.

Arlen Specter's Responsibility for the Pennsylvania Budget Crisis

Yesterday, the PA Senate finally started the process of approving Philly’s pension change and sale tax hike that will keep the infamous ‘plan c’ from happening. Good. It is sort of hard to cheer such a basic thing, which should have been done a lot earlier, but, good.

Still in front of us, however, is the PA Budget. And, if Senate Republicans get their way, the State budget would arguably have an even greater impact on Philadelphia than the city’s own budget disaster. Cuts in everything from social services to parks to nursing homes for veterans to legal services for the poor are on the Senate chopping blocks. Basically, if the Senate gets its way, civil society in Pennsylvania fundamentally changes, for the worse.

And although we rightfully focus on Senate Republicans, especially Dominic Pillegi, for their current stance, the Joe Sestak campaign has reminded us of one guy who really has not gotten enough ‘credit’ for the huge gap in Pennsylvania’s budget: Arlen Specter. In fact, Arlen Specter is largely responsible for the entire gap between Ed Rendell’s original budget proposal and the infamous Senate Bill 850. How? With his ‘courage’ in the battle over President Obama's Recovery Act.

Back in May, the Pa. Senate Republicans released Senate Bill 850 (SB 850), which slashed every program imaginable to the bone or simply totally killed its funding. The difference between the Senate and Rendell’s budget was about 1.7 billion dollars. In effect, the Senate GOP was using the crisis as a chance to make an ideological stand to gut and gut and gut our civil society. But, guess what? That huge gap would barely have existed at all, except for the work of a couple ‘moderate’ Senators, led by our own Arlen Specter.

Nationally, most economists knew at the time of the stimulus that the original package proposed by the Democratic House was a good bill, but probably not big enough given how fast our economy was shrinking. And then, in a battle that echoes the global warming and health care fights, the Senate took the package and made it much worse. In the interest of ‘compromise,’ an Arlen Specter led group of Senators slashed 100 billion from the package, and shifted a lot of the funding towards tax cuts. Specter in fact lamented that we couldn’t have slashed all spending from the Recovery Act:

The agreement we reached was the best one we could under the circumstances. We were able to cut out $100 billion from the package and include 35% in tax relief in the overall bill. My preference would have been John McCain’s proposal, which I voted for, to have the stimulus package of $421 billion in tax cuts alone. I voted for the Reagan tax cuts back in 1981 and that would be the best course, but in a legislative body you don’t have exactly your own choice.

So, Specter didn’t get all of the cuts he wanted, but he was sure happy he was ‘able to cut 100 billion from the package.’ And what was one of the cuts he was successful in getting? 40 billion dollars for the state stabilization fund. In other words, 40 billion dollars in direct payment from the Federal Government to the states to help them with their huge budget problems.

According to Pa’s share of the national population, Arlen Specter’s Recovery Act cuts cost Pennsylvania about 1.6 billion dollars, or almost the entire gap between Rendell’s original budget proposal, and SB 850. Since then, the budget gap has grown. But even now, it would be halved if Arlen Specter didn’t slash the Recovery Act.

So the next time Specter brags about his vote on the Recovery Act, just remember what he was bragging about a couple months before he switched parties, and how that potentially could endanger Pennsylvania civil society as we know it.

Sestak Health Care Meeting: Will you let the nut jobs win?

Joe Sestak is going to hold a meeting on universal health care this Wednesday. Like every other town hall meeting on healthcare, insurance companies will partner with crazy, racist, nut jobs to try to disrupt any actual meeting from taking place. It is a holy alliance of the fringes of society, spurred on by Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, and a too compliant national media, with the power and money of the insurance companies goading them on. All to stop every American from getting to see a doctor.

For example, word got out that Sestak's meeting would actually be held in Philly, and so, there was this tweet:


Oh, where the black panthers are!?

And, if that was a little to subtle for you, it was followed by this one:


Um, yeah. It is even directed at Glenn Beck. That is too, too, too perfect. That is who will be at the town hall, hoping to drown out any conversation from actually happening.

We can sit back and watch the carnage, or we can show up to these forums and make sure that the insurance companies and the birthers don't win. Here are the details:

Broad Street Ministry proudly presents an Avenue of the Arts Forum:

A Health Care Townhall Featuring Joe Sestak

This Wednesday, August 12th | 6:30 - 7:30pm

Broad Street Ministry
315 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA
b/t Spruce and Pine (across from UArts and Kimmel Center)

This event is FREE and OPEN to the Public. PLEASE COME and SPREAD the WORD!!

After being a guest of our “Vision of a Just Society” forum, Congressman Sestak returns for a candid conversation hosted by Rev. Bill Golderer to answer your questions about Health Care Reform.

Be there.

The Sestak-Specter Senate Race Begins

Joe Sestak finally took the step we have been waiting for and expecting, and announced this morning that he is getting in the race for US Senate:

There are some who say it’s impossible to win without the backing of the establishment, who say we’d be better off cutting deals and bargaining on our principles. But that kind of political calculation isn’t what put the Democrats in power, and it isn’t going to keep us there. I say — and I’ve heard people all across the state say — that we need to stand up for our beliefs, that we need leaders of genuine conviction, not political convenience.

In other words, people should choose, not party leaders. I don't understand what is so hard to grasp about that, and yet, even today, we have TJ Rooney, the supposed chair of our party, saying things like this:

While the Pennsylvania Democratic Party welcomes Congressman Sestak to the race, he has an uphill climb against Senator Specter, the incumbent Democrat. Senator Specter is the front runner and enjoys the full support and financial commitment from President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senator Casey and Governor Rendell and thousands of rank and file Democrats.

I am a member the the Democratic party. I have volunteered and given part of my non-existent income to PA Democrats. But somehow, I missed the poll that TJ Rooney did that told him that rank and file Democrats are lining up behind Specter.

In any case, the Sestak challenge is good for the state and for the Country. Why? Check out this graph, from Nate Silver of 538:


In the middle of crucial votes on healthcare and energy, Sestak has effectively made Specter a reliable Democrat.

I don't know how this will all shake out. Sestak has a long way to go, and a lot of ground to cover. But this is a very real challenge to Specter, and it is good for all of us that it is happening.

Sestak to Announce for Senate Tomorrow?

I get emails:

Dear Dan,

You are one of my ardent supporters and I wanted you to know that tomorrow morning, Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 at 8:30 a.m., I will be making a major campaign announcement.

This announcement will take place at the Herbert W. Best VFW Post located at 1805 MacDade Boulevard, Folsom, PA 19033. While I doubt that you will be in the area, I wanted you to be aware of it, just in case. (If you do happen to be in the area, please let me know if you are able to attend by responding to this email; we are asking people to arrive at 7:45AM.) See Google Map.

We will also be providing a live webcast beginning tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. at (I will begin speaking at approximately 8:45 a.m.).

Specter v Sestak: Specter barking up the wrong tree

At the Joe Sestak fundraiser I went to, Sestak referred to Arlen Specter as a "flight risk" from the Democratic party. It was a pretty funny line, and he started to use it a lot, and true Democrat Arlen Specter didn't like it one bit (h/t OpenLeft):

Despite campaigning across the state as a “true Democrat” ready to run against Senator Arlen Specter, Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) did not register as a Democrat until shortly before running for Congress three years ago, according to voter registration records.

Specter’s campaign pointed out Sestak’s registration history, first in a message to supporters Monday, later in follow-up messages to a reporter and again in a fierce statement against Sestak Thursday. After more than two months of remaining largely silent while Sestak attacked him at every turn, the remarks amounted to Specter’s first retaliation, and turned up the heat in a Senate primary that is likely to get far more contentious in the coming months.

“Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress,” Specter said in the statement. “His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the [military] service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process.”

Na na na boo boo, eh? Well, Sestak hit back:

"Let's be clear," Sestak said, "I voted for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama while Arlen Specter was voting for George Bush and Bob Dole and John McCain. My question to Arlen Specter is this: do you regret voting for George Bush and John McCain? Why should Democrats support someone like you who actively campaigned - as recently as last year - for politicians with values like George W. Bush?"


"Like Colin Powell (who was also registered as an Independent while he served), I believe that military officers should be nonpartisan," Sestak said. "The military depends on cohesion and unity, and the defense of this nation must never be political. I'm proud that I was an Independent during my 35 years in the Navy, and I was proud to register as a Democrat as soon as I retired from active duty. "

I really don't think this is a winning argument for Specter. Specter's best bet is basically to put his head down, to be a strong advocate for Healthcare, to walk back his opposition to EFCA, ettc. What he sure does not want to do is have a discussion about 1) his history as a Republican or 2) criticize Joe Sestak for not (in the tradition of military officers) registering with a political party.

PA Senate Summary

A lot has happened in the past week in regards to the PA Senate race:

First, a new Keystone Poll shows Arlen Specter is not all that popular:

The strong backing of Democratic Party leaders has done little to change slumping public support for the party's newest convert, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. Only 28 percent of all those surveyed say that he deserves re-election, according to the latest Keystone Poll, and double that number say it's time for a change.


Back in March, before the switch, roughly half the voters in each party said that Specter was doing an "excellent" or "good" job in the Senate.

Those numbers have plunged in the latest survey. Whereas 57 percent of Democrats gave him good or excellent ratings in March, only 46 percent rate him as highly now. Among Republicans, 49 percent rated his job performance as good or excellent in March, and only 18 percent gave him those ratings last week.

The support that is he somewhat holding onto is that of Democrats. If there is a real primary, or if Arlen doesn't come out strong for the Obama agenda, those numbers will sink, too. Further, in a match up against Sestak (with a very big MoE), the poll has it at 33-13. For an ultra incumbent like Arlen, being that much below 50 percent is very, very dangerous, and adds to worrisome trend lines in polls of the race:

And that is without Sestak doing any campaigning... Sestak is edging ever closer to a run. Word is that he will not announce for a month or two, but, he has made it pretty clear that he is in.

While that Keystone poll was in the field, Arlen was supposed to speak at the convention of the United Steelworkers. They dis-invited him. (Read this whole post, because it is pretttty funny.) If labor leaves him, he is really screwed.

Given all of that, and in an attempt to head left, he recently said that he is for a public health care option, after scoffing at it right after he switched parties. No one said Arlen wasn't good at making you a little dizzy.

On the Republican side, ultra-right Pat Toomey has effectively been cleared for the general election, as local Congressman Jim Gerlach has said he will not run.

The Sestak Push

As Sean notes, there is an extensive article today in the Daily News about Joe Sestak, and his run for the US Senate. And yeah, it includes Ed Rendell at his most charming:

Gov. Rendell thinks that Sestak would "get clobbered" in next year's Democratic primary, ticking off the reasons why Sestak has "practically no chance" against Specter, who is well-known across the state and likely will have an inexhaustible supply of campaign cash.

"What in God's name is he doing?" Rendell exclaimed.

You have to love Big Ed. It is not that the Guv doesn't think Sestak has a chance. Of course he has a chance. It is that the Guv can't understand why someone would run when the Guv says not to. As Ed knows, no one can ever upset someone in a Democratic primary:

Buoyed by a tide of hometown popularity, former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell captured the Democratic nomination for governor over Auditor General Bob Casey Jr. after the most expensive primary campaign in Pennsylvania history.

With 99 percent of the state's vote counted, Rendell was headed to a landslide win, 56 percent to Casey's 44 percent.

After receiving a ritual call of concession from Casey, Rendell entered a Center City ballroom crammed with cheering suporters. The strains of the Democratic anthem, "Happy Days Are Here Again," competed with shouts of "Eddie, Eddie," as he worked his way to the stage.

"Change must come to Pennsylvania," Rendell declared as he launched into a capsule version of his standard stump speech.

Of course, that was a Democratic primary with two actual Democrats. This would be a Democratic primary with one Democrat, and one Arlen Specter. And already, as Chris Bowers has noted, Specter's support may not be that strong:

Sestak already leads among voters who know both candidates: Perhaps the most remarkable number of all in this poll is that Joe Sestak is already leading Arlen Specter among the 30% of voters who know both candidates (p. 4-5):

Among voters that know Sestak (mostly in the Philadelphia inner suburbs) he enjoys an 18 - 4 favorable-unfavorable ratio, and among voters who already identify both candidates, Sestak actually leads Specter in the initial head to head 52 - 44 percent.

With numbers like these, claims from Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell that Sestak has no chance are unmasked as either absurd or desperate. Sestak is already winning among Democrats who know both candidates. Rendell might have even seen this poll before he made those remarks, since it was completed ten days beforehand.

If Arlen Specter almost lost to a little known Pat Toomey in a Republican primary, he can certainly lose to a well funded Congressman in a Democratic one.

The commercials write themselves:

So, yes, there is plenty of room for Sestak. However, Sestak has to work for this. Right now, unlike Patrick Murphy, he still has failed to make a strong statement on the public option for healthcare. If Sestak doesn't, he will fail to activate the activists who will do the hard work to get his message across. But if he does that? Then yes, he has a very real shot.

PFC Meetup = Support Marriage Equality + Save PA Budget + Recent Penn Law Grad on Sestak

Harrisburg serves up an especially vexing mix of sweet and sour at tonight's June Philly For Change Meetup, that you won't want to miss.

The Sweet: State Senator Daylin Leach's Legislative Aide Zach Hoover on how we can support his boss's historic/heroic/just plain fair proposed Marriage Equality Bill.

The Sour: The annually-gruesome summer PA budget war is aiming for Armageddon this year, with school budgets, SCHIP funding, and whole state parks on the block. Silver lining: House Appropriations Secretary/Good Guy Josh Shapiro is asking PFC for input.

Reason Not to Miss: Dan U-A graciously agreed to come out and talk about Draft Sestak and make the case for the campaign.

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