Sestak, Specter woo Delco Democrat leadership

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak told Delaware County Democrats that the 7th Congressional District in Pennsylvania would be worse off if he is not elected to the U.S. Senate next year.

Sestak, who represents the 7th district, made the off hand comment in response to a question near the end of his meeting with leaders of the Delaware County Democratic Party June 18.

One person asked him whether the district would be worse off if he left the house to run for the senate since he said he has been doing such a good job in Congress supporting president Barack Obama’s policies.

Sestak and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter each addressed the party leadership. Both politicians are vying for the Democratic Party’s 2010 nomination for senate. One of them will likely be the person to face former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, the anticipated Republican nominee.

The two did not attend the leadership meeting simultaneously so there was no debate or any face-to-face discussion.

Both claim to have the support of the Obama administration, with Specter saying he was in the Republican minority who voted for Obama’s stimulus plan.

The senator had spent 44 years in the GOP, but returned to the democratic fold earlier this year after polls indicated he would likely lose the Republican primary to Toomey next year.

He said he only joined the Republican Party because the Democrats didn’t want him to run for Philadelphia district attorney in the 1960s. He said the city leaders didn’t want him to clean up the town – something he claimed he did after being elected district attorney as a Republican.

However, he told county Democrats that he had always maintained many Democratic Party positions such as being pro-choice and favoring stem cell research. Specter jokingly said he finally switched back to the Democratic Party after years of being chided to do so by Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden, a former U.S. representative from Delaware, and Specter often road the train to Washington together, Specter said.

On the hot button issue of the evening, health care, Specter said he agrees with subsidizing poor people for their health care, but does not favor subsidizing companies.

One member of the audience chided Specter for his harsh questioning of Anita Hill during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas.

“Because of you we have Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court,” the person said.

Specter agreed adding, “But it’s because of me we don’t have Robert Bourke.”

He also said the criticism he received over the years regarding his questioning of Hill left him more sensitive to women’s issues.

Sestak, who arrived 45 minutes after Specter had left, criticized the incumbent for “helping derail” Hillary Clinton’s health care proposals during her husband’s administration, for Specter’s favoring of privatizing social security and for his support of George Bush’s tax cuts.

He said Specter’s support of Bush’s economic policies helped lead to the failing economy.

Sestak favors health care reform, as does Specter, but said he does not favor a single-payer system. He supports the public option, however, saying the country needs “competition, but with transparency.”

On education, he said that after 30 years with Specter in the senate, Pennsylvania ranks among the lowest in Scholastic Aptitude test scores, while it is among the highest for tuition rates.

Sestak also challenged the notion that Specter is the anointed Democratic candidate to run for senate in 2010.

He objects to people thinking Specter should be the candidate just because he’s an incumbent.

“There are primaries…. and I’m prepared to take on all comers,” Sestak said.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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