Report: Sestak to challenge Specter

The Pennsylvania congressman will reportedly mount a primary campaign against the newest Democratic senator

By Alex Koppelman
Published May 27, 2009 10:05PM (EDT)

Turns out Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., might have to face a primary after all. He bolted from the Republican Party rather than face former Rep. Pat Toomey in a race for the GOP's nomination, but Talking Points Memo is reporting that Rep. Joe Sestak is telling supporters that he "intend[s] to run for the U.S. Senate," challenging Specter in the Democratic primary next year.

In a letter received by one donor, Sestak wrote, "I am writing you as especially dear supporters to let you know I intend to run for the U.S. Senate... my candidacy's credibility will have much to do with my fundraising success by the 30 June FEC filing deadline at the end of this quarter. Would you help me bring the change for the future we Pennsylvanians need[?]"

The congressman's sister, Meg Infantino, told TPM that the letter is authentic, and said her brother "intends to get in the race."

But there is one major caveat still left. Infantino also told TPM, "In the not too distant future, [Sestak] will sit down with his wife and daughter to make the final decision." That certainly appears to leave him some room not to run, though that might become clearer during a scheduled appearance on CNN Wednesday evening.

In Washington, that's a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. "Everyone's hyperventilating about it," a Democratic leadership aide told Salon. "The guy hasn't made a decision."

Spokespeople for Sestak and Specter were not immediately available for comment.

Update: Speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Sestak said he does plan to run, but left himself that same out. "There's too much doubt in my mind [about Specter] not to have the intent, right now, to get in this race," Sestak said," pending just a little bit of time with my family to make sure we're all together."

If he does decide to throw his hat in the ring, Sestak will face some powerful opposition. The White House promised Specter the president's support when he decided to switch parties; so did Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. And Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has already thrown his organization's weight behind Specter.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Arlen Specter D-pa. Arlen Specter Vs. Joe Sestak Joe Sestak