So just as lunch rush started today, a fellow Democrat came in and asked if I was going to the Sestak endorsement announcement that was to take place at 2pm in Penn Square which is about 1/2 a block from my Creamery...so naturally I closed at 1:55 and headed on over.
Now I'm back and wanted to write up my impressions while they are still fresh. Pardon me if they seem rambly, that's just my writing style.
Rep. Sestak was in Lancaster today to be endorsed by our Democratic County Commissioner Craig Lehman, a couple of City Council Members and 4 out of 5 of our State Committee Representatives (for the record, the 5th State Committee Person is running a campaign of her own and is not endorsing either Senatorial Candidate during the Primary).
After a brief introduction by Commissioner Lehman, Rep. Sestak spoke for about 15-20 minutes, mostly about health care reform and Afghanistan. He was obviously well informed and at ease. He also spoke briefly about the issues on which he has serious disagreements with Senator Specter. Namely, how Sen. Specter has handled everything with regards to the stimulus spending. He pointed out the irony of Sen. Specter being in Elizabethtown (also in Lancaster County) to help break ground and announce federal stimulus money for the refurbishment of the Elizabethtown Train Station. (Note: I traveled to and from NN from this station- it really needs the update!! and is NOT handicap accessible or anywhere close to resembling modern.) The irony is that Sen. Specter in the past has bragged about his support for REMOVING money for such projects from the stimulus bill, but is obviously know proud to use it for his advantage- anyone surprised by that? That's what I thought.
Rep. Sestak emphasized his incredible record of constituent services since becoming a Rep. in 2006, noting that his office has assisted some 12,000 people since swearing in. He also pointed out that his office is one the few that is open 7 days a week- day and night. Personally, this impressed me after spending 3 weeks trying to get Rep. Pitts' staff to just answer the phone last summer!
Afterwards, he took questions from the few that were gathered (I'd say there were maybe 20-25 us present). I got to ask the first question...which was where exactly does he stand on the public option. He was VERY clear that he 100% supports that the public option HAS to be brought into existence. I followed up by asking if he would take the Whip Pledge. I must admit that while I was disappointed that his answer was a firm no, he did give a reason that wasn't far flung. He stated that he is concerned that if he took the pledge and then the bill didn't contain some other other key provisions such as start up money FOR the public option that he would be locked in to voting for it just because the option was there. He appears to be concerned that this could end up being the case.
My questions were followed up by someone asking where he stands on Single Payer. Again, his answer disappointed me as I am still a believer that Single Payer is where we really need to be, but he also didn't rule it out 100%, he simply stated that there are good reasons in favor of single payer but that he is not currently an advocate for it. I got the impression that if some of our healthcare4allpa people could spend some time with him, we might be able to convince him otherwise. He was also mentioned co-ops, explaining that he doesn't think they are the answer which did make me happy.
He was then asked about Afghanistan and the situation there. He said that it was an appropriate question since he will be on tv this evening regarding this same issue. He said that President Obama was handed a very bad situation. He stated that we need a CLEAR exit strategy with clearly identifiable benchmarks. He also stated that we are just NOW beginning to get to a point where we could dig ourselves out of this hole there, but we're not really even at ground zero yet.
I was an early supporter of Rep. Sestak getting into this primary and nothing I saw or heard today changed my mind. While there are some issues I don't agree with him on, I'm heartened by the fact that he WANTS to listen and learn, that he's approachable and most importantly he is a Democrat because he WANTS to be one, not because of what some polls said.
Can he win? If he truly runs a grassroots campaign, I think yes. I had the opportunity to speak w/some of his staffers that were there and was impressed that they had answers to some of my "what can I do since I'm poor" type questions and they took all of my information with a promise to get back to me by the end of the week.
If anyone was in E-town today with Sen. Specter and Sec. LaHood and others I'd love to hear more about that.
And of course...obligatory pics:
Me and our future senator from PA!
Commissioner Lehman introducing Rep. Sestak w/my friend Jonathan in the background
Here is answering my question...and he further impressed me by looking me in the eye as he spoke. And afterwards when I went to get my picture taken, he asked me if I had anything further to ask or did he answer my question...very impressive. Unfortunately I had to get back to the Creamery, but I look forward to getting a chance to speak with again!