May 18, 2010; 11:14 PM ET
Joe Sestak defeats Arlen Specter, Rand Paul wins, Democrats claim victory in PA special election
Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak defeated Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic Senate primary, a large-scale political upset that ends the career of one of the enduring figures in Pennsylvania politics.
“This election is about you,” said Sestak in his victory speech. “This is what democracy looks like: a win for the people, over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.”
Specter, who is 80 years old and has served since 1980 in the Senate, called it a “great privilege” to have served in the Senate and added that he would “be working very, very hard for the people of the commonwealth in the coming months.”
Specter had built a reputation over his decades in Congress as a quirky but effective legislator. He played a prominent role in a series of Supreme Court confirmation hearings — including those of Robert Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas — from his perch atop the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In other Pennsylvania news, former Congressional aide Mark Critz (D) soundly defeated businessman Tim Burns (R) in a special election in a southwestern Pennsylvania House race to replace his late boss — Rep. Jack Murtha (D) — a race that had drawn considerable national attention from both parties.
Across the country, ophthalmologist Rand Paul soundly defeated Secretary of State Trey Grayson to claim the Republican Senate nomination in Kentucky while state Attorney General Jack Conway claimed the Democratic nod. In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter will face each other in a June 8 runoff after the incumbent failed to break 50 percent tonight. On the Republican side, Rep. John Boozman was running very close to the 50 percent mark, keeping the possibility alive that he would bypass a runoff despite a crowded GOP field. In Oregon, former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) easily won his party’s nomination to seek his old office while former NBA player Chris Dudley led the Republican field.
The marquee contest of the night — without question — was in Pennsylvania where Specter’s career came to an abrupt end.
Following his party switch last spring, Specter was seen as a strong favorite in his primary fight against Sestak. President Barack Obama did quite a bit for Specter — appearing at a rally with the incumbent and appearing in radio and television ads for him in the Philadelphia area in the final weeks of the campaign. Obama resisted making a final stop in the last 48 hours of the race — traveling instead to Youngstown, Ohio to make the case for his economic stimulus package.
Sestak overcame his early deficit in polls by tying Specter closely to George W. Bush in one particularly devastating ad — reminding Democrats of their trust issues with the newest member of their party.
Sestak will move onto face former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in the general election. Toomey said that he and Sestak have “clearly very different approaches to our view on public policy.”
The story early in the night was Paul’s strong victory.
Paul, unlike some other Republican candidates for office, wholeheartedly embraced the tea party crowd, channeling the energy captured by his father, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, during the 2008 presidential race.
“I have a message from the tea party,” said Paul at his victory speech. “We’ve come to take our government back.” He added: “this tea party movement is a message to Washington that we are unhappy and we want things done differently.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) had endorsed Grayson as had a number of other GOP establishment figures including former Vice President Dick Cheney. In recent days, however, McConnell had made clear that he would back either Republican — a recognition of Paul’s frontrunner status.
“Dr. Paul ran an outstanding campaign which clearly struck a chord with Kentucky voters,” McConnell said in the wake of Paul’s across-the-board victory.
Grayson quickly called for the Republican party to unite behind Paul. A unity rally is scheduled for Saturday.
Conway, who trailed for much of the race, came from behind to oust Mongiardo in an extremely close contest.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) compared Paul to the outgoing senator, citing retiring Sen. Jim Bunning‘s (R) “erratic behavior” and drawing parallels to Paul.
“Republicans nominated a very problematic candidate whose irrational policy positions generate national headlines, but hurt the people of Kentucky,” Menendez said.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Paul’s resounding win shows he has the momentum heading into the general election.
“Jack Conway was dragged across the finish line by his Democrat bosses in Washington and liberal interest groups that championed his candidacy — despite the fact that he has only won a single race during his career against an extremely weak opponent,” Cornyn said.
Joe Sestak was born on December 12th, 1951 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Sestak
12 + 12 +1+9+5+1 = 40 = his life lesson = what he is here to learn = Helpfulness. Assistance. Aid. Favor. Volunteering. Loving kindness. Gentle. Good Samaritan. Community. Neighborhood. Neighbors. Brotherhood. Siblings. Service. Seva. Karma yoga. Service work. Public service. Civic duty. The common good. Altruism.