By Jim EllisJune 26, 2019 — The Democratic presidential field has now grown as large as a professional baseball team, as the 25th candidate came forward this week. Former Pennsylvania representative and defeated US Senate nominee Joe Sestak, who is emphasizing his long military career in rising to the rank of a Navy three-star admiral and serving on President Clinton’s National Security Council, officially entered the national campaign.
Sestak was first elected to the House in 2006 and served two terms from southeastern Pennsylvania’s 7th District. The new presidential candidate unseated 20-year congressional veteran Curt Weldon (R) in his first election and was easily re-elected in 2008. He chose to run for the Senate in 2010, defeating party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter 54-46 percent in the Democratic primary, but then lost to Republican Pat Toomey 51-49 percent in the succeeding general.
Sestak would return in the 2016 Democratic senatorial primary but fell to former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty after running a rather bizarre campaign that featured the ex-congressman walking the entire state of Pennsylvania but doing very few candidate appearances or media events along the way.
He joins the presidential field long after his new opponents have been campaigning for weeks and months but says he delayed his entry for family reasons. Sestak points out that his daughter has again been fighting brain cancer, which he claims she has beaten for the second time during her life.
Regardless of the reason, Sestak, who is calling himself “Admiral Joe” in this campaign and doesn’t use his congressional title in his new slogan, which reads, “ADM JOE, Accountability to America,” is likely entering too late to become an effective candidate with the ability to challenge for the party nomination.
He doesn’t qualify for the first debate forum this week, since that field is already set, and his chances of meeting either the fundraising or polling criteria for the second debate scheduled for the end of July also suggest his participation is unlikely.
For the third debate and beyond, all the candidates will have to recruit 130,000 donors and reach two percent support in a series of designated polls by the end of August to earn their next debate podium. At this point, it appears Sestak’s prospects of attaining either requirement are poor, meaning he should be relegated to the lowest candidate tier until he proves that a tangible presidential campaign apparatus can be constructed.
In addition to Sestak, Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK), and Miramar (FL) Mayor Wayne Messam also failed to qualify for the first forum, but Gov. Bullock has already been announced as a participant at the July event. This means at least one candidate from the original forum will not return for the second debate. The DNC is limiting the forum size to 10 candidates per session, thus creating competition for inclusion.
Sestak’s surprise announcement will not likely change the course of this nomination campaign. With the first tier of candidates largely set, “Admiral Joe” is not likely to have the resources to propel himself into the upper echelon, thus he will have a difficult time making his name any more than an asterisk during this presidential campaign.