Rep. Joe Sestak handily defeated Sen. Arlen Specter and ended his three-decade career in last night's Pennsylvania Democratic senate primary. Sestak is a former naval admiral and very strong on progressive and LGBT issues. Specter switched parties last year and had strong support from state and national Party leaders.
The switch didn't fool many Democratic voters, reports NBC10.
Sestak, a two-time Congressman who spent 31 years in the Navy before running for U.S. House, will now face off against GOP candidate Pat Toomey in November. Specter switched to the Democratic side of the aisle last year after casting the critical vote in the Recovery Act. But, many believed he switched parties because he would have lost a Republican primary against Pat Toomey. But even before Tuesday's vote, it seemed Specter was done anyway. In the days leading up to Tuesday's vote, Specters biggest supporters -- President Obama and Vice President Biden—didn't come out to stump for the venerable pol. Obama avoided Pa. altogether in recent days, staying away from the Keystone State even while he spoke in nearby Ohio.
With 99-percent of precincts reporting, Sestak received 562, 037 votes, or 54 percent; Specter received 479, 934 votes, accounting for 46 percent. The race was marred by low voter turnout likely caused by rainy weather and voter apathy. Specter amazingly only carried three of the commonwealth's 67 counties—Philadelphia, Dauphin and Lackawanna.
"For Democrats, the case against Specter was encapsulated by an ad that showed Specter being praised by George W. Bush in 2004," reports CBS News. "And showing Specter saying his party switch would enable him to win re-election. Those images, coupled with a devastating tag line 'Specter changed parties to save one job -- his, not yours,' said it all.
As moderate Republican, Specter often voted with Democrats on social issues. Economic issues not so much. Only one day after "switching" parties, Specter joined his "former" GOP colleagues to vote en masse against President Obama's budget. As a Republican, Specter supported the Employee Free Choice Act—the key legislative initiative for organized labor—but switched to be competitive in the Republican primary and retained that opposition as a "Democrat." Specter was one of the three extra GOP votes on the stimulus, fwiw.
TIME's Joe Klein wrote a devastating obituary to Specter's career last week called the "Price of Opportunism." It's worth the read.
Specter was decent on LGBT issues. The Pennsylvania senator had a 70 percent rating (PDF) from the Human Rights Campaign for the 110th Congress. Specter was one of the original Senate co-sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and co-sponsored the hate crimes bill. As a Republican, Specter opposed repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Specter immediately switched these positions in the Democratic primary.
On the other hand: Sestak has been a reliable progressive and pro-LGBT vote. The former naval admiral has been one of the leading voices opposing DADT. Sestak participated in a live chat at Pam's House Blend and said: "More than anything, I learned in my military career is that everyone is created equal and I believe God believes that." The congressman's campaign website has a whole page devoted to his LGBT positions—co-sponsors all of our legislative agenda, such as ENDA, Domestic Partnership Benefits Obligations Act (DPBO), hate crimes and repealing DOMA.
Meanwhile: Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a June run-off against Lt. Gov Bill Halter. Lincoln has been a reliable vote against health care, labor unions and LGBT issues. Last week the new SEIU president, out lesbian labor activist Mary Kay Henry, warned her union would withhold ALL support (cash and volunteers) from Lincoln if she wins the primary. Good.
A very good night for the "Democratic" wing of the Democratic Party.