Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Attack of the Sestak Clones

Actually this isn't about Congressman and Senate Candidate Joe Sestak, per se. It is about something happening over the last six years in the Southeast corner of Pennsylvania.

Congressman Joe Sestak isn't the prototype for the cloning. That honor goes to Iraqi Freedom Vet, Greg Philips. Greg retired from the Seabees as a Lt Commander. Seabees are essentially the Navy's Corp of Engineers. They go into tough spots and work engineering miracles. Greg is an architect and attorney by trade. He's a good at both disciplines too.

In late 2003, word was that Greg was thinking about a suicide mission - aka becoming a sacrificial lamb. Greg was going to unseat Representative Curt Weldon. Having lived in Weldon's district on and off because of gerry-meandering, I knew Weldon was a better congressman to the Balkans than Audubon (my hometown). I live in Montgomery County, as does Greg, but about 60-65% of the district sits in Delaware County (Delco). Parts of the district are in Chester County - but we don't talk about THOSE guys.

Delco (and you thought it was just a battery) has been controlled by the GOP since about the Civil War. It is funny how these Republicans out-lived Communism (I wonder how the Delco GOP will do competing with cockroaches after a good nuking). But Democrats did have a REALLY good Congressman here for a while; Rev. Bob Edgar was swept in by Watergate. So it is possible that if all the cylinders click together the Democrats can win.

The PA-7th district is home to a lot of defense industry. Boeing lives at one part of the district. There is a lot of retired military in the area. Perception at the time in these parts; and I guess across the country, was that the Democrats were soft on Defense and low on experience.

Did I mention that Greg is an Iraqi War Vet as well as an architect and attorney? (a prototype?)
Curt Weldon had never really been seriously challenged for his seat. Either a candidate would have too little money or too much baggage or whatever. Democrats would get beaten like a drum.

In 2004 the top of the ticket had a war hero running the show, John Kerry (pre-Swift boating). It was looking good. Some cylinders were locking into place. More cylinders clicked when candidates from other parts of the district bowed out and Greg got the nod. It was a nice primary win.

In the back of our minds we knew that Greg could be deployed, but we thought that there would be no way a GOP controlled government would deploy a candidate for office. We talked about that possibility but dismissed it as sheer lunacy. We could have a field day with it. Curt Weldon moves an opponent into a war zone. Can you say Uriah?

We underestimated the lunacy. Greg's unit got deployed. We thought about trying to keep Greg on the ballot. If for no other reason, it would generate good press all over the place. He wanted no part of it because it would split his mind while in theater. It was more important for him to focus 100% on his troops. In mid-summer we said good-bye to Greg. We found a replacement for Greg, Dr. Paul Scoles, but it wasn't to be. The drumming continued in November.

But the GOP was obviously scared. Weldon blinked. Amazingly, Greg was back in town around the start of 2005. I don't care who will try to allay my Rube-Goldberg-Conspiracy-Theory-Constructing-Mind on this, but my opinion is that strings got pulled to get Greg out of the way for the election.

What it did tell me was that the Democrats could win in a "blue-dog" district. Make no mistake for all the Haverford Colleges and Swarthmore Colleges that live in the 7th, it is a conservative machine here.

Greg found a flaw in the conservative armor. Too many GOP officials have not served anywhere - Chicken Hawks having no problems spilling blood. This flank can be exploited by intelligent, qualified men and women who have served.

In 2006, Greg wanted to take another shot at the seat. By this time the scent of a ripe seat was picked up by Admiral Joe Sestak (Joe's Link), who grew up in the Delco part of the district. Sestak had his ducks in line and Greg knew he couldn't compete, so he bowed out. Sestak easily took the primary.

Weldon's own hubris got him in the end. Some unforced errors, an FBI investigation, and a mood souring on the GOP helped another Iraqi War Vet make it to Congress. Sestak was elected in 2006. To stay there Sestak opened his office 7 days a week and made voter services an art-form. In 2008 the GOP candidate could not see Sestak with a telescope. Sestak could have been a lifer in the PA-7th.

In 2006, another Iraqi War Vet, West Point Professor, and JAG officer; Patrick Murphy joined Joe Sestak in Congress. Representative Murphy's 8th District includes parts of Northeast Philly, Montgomery and Bucks Counties - ringing the Northern parts of the region. He is the 2006 model of Sestak Clone - (with all due respect to the professor, the Admiral gets the headline because of the 7th District, rank, and the fact Sestak is running for Senate. Although, The Attack of the Murphy Clones would have sounded as good). (Link for Patrick)

The 2010 models of the Sestak Clones include State Representative Brian Lentz, a former prosecutor, and - you guessed it - Iraqi War Vet. Bryan is also a former Airborne Ranger, serving in the 82nd Airborne Division and among his official commendations is the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Bronze Star for Service. Being in the 7th District, Bryan is looking to replace Sestak as the Admiral tries his act in the Senate. (Link for Bryan)

In yet another suburban Philly District, the 6th, Dr. Manan Trivedi, a young doctor from Reading is challenging a GOP member that barely hangs on time after time. Did I mention the good doctor was one of the first guys on the ground in Iraq who ministered to the injured? (This guy has a great immigrant back story too.) The 6th District is a bizarre gerrymander that winds from next to Philly, through Montgomery and Chester Counties and to the Outlet Malls of Reading. This covers the much of the western suburbs of Philly. (Link for Manan)

Across the country we can see the numbers of vets who have returned from active duty, step up and compete on the field of politics, and won. Of this batch, Greg is the prototype. Many times the first guy through doesn't always make it, but the hole he creates in the line allows others to run to victory.

I would love to get a chance to ask former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean next week if this is a by design for a candidate or did we just organically grow a bunch of really accomplished Democrats who served in the military?

Dean will be at a fundraiser for both Lentz and Trivedi next week. (Link for the event.)
I hope Greg will be there as the prototype.


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