Sestak has a Challenger

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Joe is my congressman. I’m new to him and he to me. Introductions—I’ve been a commenter on FireDogLake for the past two and a half years or so. I went past being a commenter to being an activist having been spurred on by Jane, Christy, and Pach. I helped to do some of the Roots Project organizing when we started sorting out people into googlegroups in their states to mobilize the troops to visit, cajole, woo, and pester our senators to do the right thing. I lived in MA at the time and helped get our group actively doing things. Last summer I moved to PA for a job with a congregation of people who want to make a difference. The geographic area that my congregation serves includes parts of Gerlach’s, Pitts’, and Sestak’s districts. I intentionally looked for a house in Sestak’s district and luckily, the house I liked best was in the PA 07. In July, just before we moved I got an e-mail from the Sestak campaign and I replied telling them I was moving into the district and that I was part of the FDL activist community. I heard back from the campaign that they wanted to put me in touch with Joe’s scheduler. Even before our phone was installed, Zach called wanting to get the congressman and me to meet at some mutually convenient time.

That sounded like a good idea and then the congress voted to slap the hand of MoveOn, an organization I have been a part of from the beginning. To say I was unhappy with that vote . . . . . I don’t write those kinds of words on blogs for others to read. Of course we were all upset (%^&!?!) with his vote last May to continue to fund the war. The FDL community was really pissed. To give Joe some credit, he came back to FDL to try to answer our questions and assuage our anger. He didn’t succeed but at least he came back and owned his vote. So with the MoveOn vote I wasn’t sure I wanted to meet him and said so in my e-mail back to Zach. I told him what I wanted in my elected representatives were men and women who took their oath of office seriously and were committed to supporting the Constitution, the rule of law, and standing up for those who have no voice. If Joe didn’t want to be one of those people, then our meeting would be a waste of time. This was last Sept.

I didn’t hear back.

Friday afternoon Dec. 28 as I was on my way to a wedding rehearsal I got a call from Zach. He was trying to tie up loose ends before the new year and unearthed my last e-mail. He still wanted me to meet the congressman. Would I be willing . . sure. Could I meet him on a Sunday because he was in D.C. during the week. “Zach,” I said, “I’m a minister, remember, I work on Sundays! But if he wants to meet, he’s welcome to come to church.” He said he’d get back to me. The following thursday he confirmed that the congressman would be coming to church the next sunday. He came, introduced himself and mentioned that every weekend in addition to going to Mass he attends two or three other worship services of all faiths. He’s learned a lot by doing so. He sat near the back and took notes.

After the service we had a brief time to talk in my office. I spoke of my displeasure about the continuing war. He maintains that our withdrawal has to be a planned and orderly one and until we can make that happen, he feels he needs to fund equipping the troops. He will not abandon them without what they need. I emphasized that we elected him and the other dems to end the war, NOW. I mentioned the MoveOn vote and he said that his vote was to condemn their ad, not them. Not a helpful answer. He also said that the house had a measure to also condemn Rush. I asked what has happened to that bill . . . . . *crickets* . . . he knows and we know that a measure to slap Rush’s hand will never see the light of day. I mentioned net neutrality—he said he signed on to co-sponsor that. And then there’s the Bill of Rights. I talked of my fear of creeping fascism and that we have to restore habeas, stop the torture, etc. I showed him my disappearing Bill of Rights mug.

In our conversation he was sincere and spoke from the heart. I sensed nothing phony—something I don’t often see in the politicians I have met. He gave me his contact information and had to run.

The one thing I forgot to ask him and really wanted to was about impeachment. What would it take for the dems to finally come around to holding the crooks accountable for their crimes? I e-mailed that along with the copy of the sermon which he requested. I got a personal note back—his handwriting is atrocious. Essentially he’s in the camp of impeachment stops everything but if Waxman can uncover enough specific evidence then he’d climb aboard. Then he conceded that they couldn’t even pass SCHIP so the idea of impeachment stopping everything is kind of hollow.

So getting back to the subject at hand. The local paper last week had an
announcement about the republican challenger that plans to take on Joe. He’s a 43 year old lawyer married to another lawyer. His name is Wendell Craig Williams. He’s a former AUSA, decorated Marine vet from the Gulf war and wants to see us stay in Iraq until “the job is done.” He is not a fan of immigration and would take a harder line than Joe. There’s little information floating around yet about him other than the repub locals think they have a worthy contender. We don’t know yet if he’s from the wingnut side of the party or what’s left of the more moderate folks but we do know that Snarlin’ Arlen is supporting him out of the gate. He doesn’t have a web site up yet and OpenSecrets is not reporting any money in his box whereas Joe has $1.7 mil in his war chest.

This is the district that Crazy Curt Weldon held for way too long. It has been pretty solidly republican but I keep hearing that it is trending more democratic. My understanding is that one of the issues they wanted to hammer Joe with was the image of his being a carpet-bagger. That was a big stick they tried to hit Joe with. Wendell has only lived in the district for a short time, I’ve been told so here’s the pot calling . . . well, you get it.

We’ve got a fighting dem trying to hold his seat against a newly minted Bushcon enabler—a young attractive Vet who is gung ho on “winning” the war. Even with a dem groundswell in Nov. we need to pay attention and make sure we don’t lose this seat. We may not have liked a couple of Joe’s votes, but if you look at the rest of his record, he’s been doing what we ask of him. He’s a hard worker. His constituent services I hear have been strong and well attended to. He said that his office fields an average of 352 calls a day seeking some kind of services. He’s out in the community bringing a variety of leaders together to talk—about education, about health care, about violence (the picture was taken at a forum I attended last week for religious leaders on violence.

More info will come when it is available, but in the mean time it is time to gear up the antennae and pay attention so we don’t lose any of the ground we have gained in this not very liberal district.
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