Thursday, April 28, 2016


Lost in the news about Hillary Clinton's victory in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary election was the U.S. Senate nomination contest held at the same time.  Former congressman Joe Sestak, who lost his 2010 Senate bid to Republican Pat Toomey, made another try for the same seat in 2016 but Pennsylvania Democrats instead chose  Kathleen McGinty, a former chief of staff to current Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, for the nomination.  Sestak's defeat ends yet another once-promising career in a once-relevant party.
Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was an eager U.S. House member from 2007 to 2011 and a mainstream Democrat who occasionally leaned toward the left representing his traditionally Republican district in Delaware County, situated just west of Philadelphia.  But he was also a maverick who followed his own rules, and that proved to be his undoing.  Not only was he too independent, he put his ambition against the wishes of party leaders.  When the late Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Arlen Specter went back to the Democratic Party in 2009 after having been a Republican for so long, the Democrats hoped he would win a sixth term for the party in 2010, but Sestak went for the seat in the primary and defeated Specter . . . only to lose to Toomey by two points.  Not only was Sestak seen to have ruined the party's chances of maintaining that Senate seat, he gave up his own relatively safe U.S. House seat, only for that seat to be won by Republican Patrick Meehan, who holds it to this day.  
Rather than run for governor of Pennsylvania in 2014, when the Democrats nominated Wolf and won that election but could have nominated a cow and still have defeated Republican incumbent Governor Tom Corbett, Sestak chose to go for the Senate again, and angry party leaders were right there waiting to torpedo the retired Navy man.  They remembered all the times Sestak refused to be controlled and wanted him out of the way.   Then, with polls showing that Toomey would beat Sestak in a rematch in November - and given that Democrats have a history of refusing to give losers not named Hillary a second chance for an elective office  - the party establishment secured the U.S. Senate nomination in  Pennsylvania for McGinty. 
There's just one thing - Toomey, according to the polls,  would currently win a match-up with McGinty as well.
With his experience and independence, Sestak was probably the better candidate to put up against Toomey in the fall, while McGinty is seen as being untested despite her establishment connections.  She also has to run against some strong historical headwinds - Pennsylvania Democrats have only won three U.S. Senate elections since 1962. 
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and, for Democrats, the road to historical oblivion may go through Pennsylvania.   

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