January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Curt Weldon|
|Born||December 12, 1951
|Spouse(s)||Susan L. Clark|
|Residence||Edgmont Township, Pennsylvania|
|Alma mater||United States Naval Academy
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1974–2005|
|Rank||Rear Admiral (RADM) (2 star), retired|
|Commands||Director of Navy Operations Group|
|Awards||Defense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Meritorious Service Medal (2)
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Joseph A. "Joe" Sestak, Jr. (born December 12, 1951) is an American military officer and politician. He is currently a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district (map) since 2007. The district incorporates parts of the Philadelphia suburbs, including most of Delaware County. His legislative efforts led House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to name him the most productive freshman member of Congress in 2007.
A member of the United States Navy for over thirty years, Sestak is a retired three-star Vice Admiral and the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to Congress. During his career in the Navy, he led a series of operational commands, including commanding the USS George Washington aircraft carrier battle group in Afghanistan and Iraq. He served as Director for Defense Policy on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton and, following the September 11 attacks, was selected to serve as the first Director of "Deep Blue," the Navy's anti-terrorism unit.
On August 4, 2009, Sestak announced his candidacy for the seat in the United States Senate currently held by five-term incumbent Arlen Specter, whom he will challenge for the Democratic nomination.
Sestak was born in Secane, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, a suburb of Philadelphia in Delaware County. His grandfather, Martin, came to America from the village of Dolné Lovčice in Slovakia in 1922, after World War I, while his father Joseph (age 3), was sent to America in 1924 to join Martin. Sestak's father graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1942, and then fought in both the Atlantic and the Pacific during World War II. Following in his father's footsteps, Sestak graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in American political systems. Between tours at sea, Sestak earned a Master of Public Administration and a Ph.D. in political economy and government from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1980 and 1984, respectively.
Sestak is married to the former Susan L. Clark and they have an eight year old daughter, Alexandra, who is a brain cancer survivor.
As a surface warfare officer, Sestak served division officer tours as damage control assistant, combat information center officer and weapons officer on the guided missile destroyer USS Richard E. Byrd, and then was weapons officer on the guided missile destroyer USS Hoel. He then served as aide and flag lieutenant to the admiral in charge of United States Navy surface forces in the Pacific.
In January 1986, Sestak became executive officer of the guided missile frigate USS Underwood. He then served in the Politico-Military Assessment Division of the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On August 30, 1991, Sestak took command of the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts, which was named the Atlantic Fleet's best surface combatant in the 1993 Battenberg Cup competition.
In July 1993 , Sestak became the head of the Strategy and Concepts Branch in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. From November 1994 to March 1997, he was the Director for Defense Policy on the National Security Council staff at the White House, where he was responsible for national security and defense strategy, policies, programs, inter-agency and congressional coordination and regional political-military advice. In May 1997, he became the commander of Destroyer Squadron 14.
Sestak then directed the CNO's Strategy and Policy Division (N51), and led the Navy's efforts toward the 2000 Quadrennial Defense Review, for which he analyzed the economic value of U.S. defense spending. After September 11th, he became the first director of the Navy Operations Group (Deep Blue), which sought to redefine strategic, operational and budgetary policies in the Global War on Terrorism. He reported directly to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral Vern Clark, as policy adviser and administrator. Sestak told The Hill that as the designated policy adviser and administrator to Clark, it was his job to revamp the Navy, a process that necessarily ruffled feathers. “Change is very challenging,” Sestak said. “It did not sit well with a lot of people...I worked hard, and I did not ask anyone to work harder than me."
In the summer of 2005, Sestak was administratively reassigned from his position as DCNO due to a "poor command climate," effectively ending his naval career. His removal was one of the first changes made by Admiral Michael Mullen when he took over as the new Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in July, according to Navy Times.
Sestak's decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, two Legion of Merit awards, two Meritorious Service Medals, Joint Service Commendation Medal, three Navy Commendation Medals and the Navy Achievement Medal.
Because Sestak left the Navy before he had been a Vice Admiral long enough to be able to retire at that rank, he retired at the lower rank of a two star Rear Admiral (upper half).
Since 2007, Congressman Sestak has hosted eleven economic summits in the 7th District. He voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ("the Stimulus Bill") and the Tax Extenders and Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008.
Congressman Sestak voted for the Improving Head Start Act and the College Cost Reduction and Access Act.
Sestak voted for the Waxman Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (Cap and Trade) program. He is the only Pennsylvanian congressman to have a 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters and PennEnvironment. He has also been endorsed by the Sierra Club. He voted for the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 and the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security and Consumer Protection Act. He was also an original co-sponsor of the Climate Stewardship Act (H.R. 620) and the Safe Climate Act.
Sestak has called for the reinstatement of the federal ban on assault weapons.
Congressman Sestak credits his support for health care reform as to "pay back" the country that provided him and his family health care while he was in the Navy (the TRICARE program), especially for treating his daughter's brain tumor. He supports preventive care and voted for the CHAMP Act. Sestak originally co-sponsored the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiations Act, the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act and co-sponsored H.R. 3800, which establishes a public-private Partnership for Health Care Improvement. He also announced the Pediatric Cancer Caucus, which he will co-chair. He is also a member of the Autism Caucus, Diabetes Caucus, 21st Century Health Care Caucus, Congressional Mental Health Caucus, Nursing Caucus, and Cystic Fibrosis Caucus.
Congressman Sestak is an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act and supports the original version that includes card check. He created the Labor Advisory Committee to address the challenges facing working families in his district. balllllass
In 2006, Sestak challenged ten-term incumbent Curt Weldon in a race for the 7th district Congressional seat. Sestak proved a capable fund-raiser. In the second quarter of 2006, he raised $704,000 to Weldon's $692,000; in the third, $1.14 million to $912,000. As of September 30, 2006, Sestak had $1.53 million cash on hand, while Weldon had $1.12 million in the bank after making a $500,000 TV ad buy that had not started as of the close of the third quarter. Sestak received campaign funds from famed people around the world, including performer Jimmy Buffett, the Clintons, and many Naval officers.
On October 6, 2006, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report re-rated the race from "Lean Republican" to "Toss Up." A poll released in late September 2006 showed Sestak and Weldon locked in a statistical dead heat. Sestak led Weldon 44-43 among likely voters in a Franklin & Marshall College Keystone Poll released September 29. The poll also found that 49 percent of registered voters in the district felt it was time for change in the district and only 37 percent said Weldon deserved re-election. The poll numbers suggest Sestak had seriously eroded Weldon's previous lead; a poll conducted in April 2006 by the pro-Democratic Party organization Democracy Corps had Weldon leading 51 to 41 percent. An October 8–10 survey by nonpartisan pollster Constituent Dynamics put Sestak ahead 51-44. On October 13, 2006, CQPolitics changed their rating on the race, from "Leans Republican" to "No Clear Favorite." The race was locked in a dead-heat until late October, when FBI special agents raided the homes of Weldon's daughter and a close friend in connection with a federal corruption probe  (though as of 2009 neither Weldon nor his daughter were ever charged with a crime). Sestak was elected on November 7, 2006, defeating Weldon by a 12-point margin (56-44), becoming only the second Democrat to represent the Delaware County-based district and its various permutations since the Civil War.
In 2008, Sestak faced Republican nominee Wendell Craig Williams, a U.S. Marine and attorney. Sestak defeated him by a 20-point margin (59.6-40.4), a full 8 points higher than his 2006 election, considered by many to be a landslide victory.
Whispers of a possible senate campaign appeared in 2008, due to Sestak's popularity and $3 million campaign surplus after his re-election. Even before Arlen Specter's announcement to switch parties, draft efforts were organized. However, once Senator Specter switched, nationwide support mounted on a senatorial campaign. Most prominent was a straw poll conducted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. It was entitled "Should a Draft Sestak movement be created to take on Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary?" Nationwide, 86% responded yes, while 85% of Pennsylvanians said yes. Over 7500 votes were cast in five days. The day voting ended and the results were revealed, Sestak released the following statement:
Congressman Sestak faced significant opposition to his candidacy from some Pennsylvania Democrats, including Governor Ed Rendell. "Joe Sestak should not run for the Senate in the Democratic primary," Rendell said during a May 29, 2009 appearance on MSNBC's The Ed Show, noting that Democrats risked losing Sestak's Congressional seat if the incumbent were to abandon the race and run for Senate.
On May 27, 2009, Sestak indicated that he intended to challenge current Senator Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic primary, pending a final family decision because he hadn't "had the time to sit down with my eight-year-old daughter or my wife to make sure that we are all ready to get in." In June, he was overheard saying "[i]t would take an act of God for me to not get in now," in reference to the Senate race. In a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted May 20–26, in the Democratic primary, Specter led with 50%, with Sestak at 21% and 27% undecided. Despite the gap, it was noted that Sestak did not have much statewide recognition at the time, as he represents only one out of the nineteen Pennsylvania congressional districts.
On August 4, Sestak officially announced his candidacy. His only brother, Richard Sestak, is his campaign manager for the Senate race. In discussing his opponent Arlen Specter's switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sestak has said that the switch was "100%" motivated by politics.
In an interview in February 2010, Sestak revealed that the Obama administration offered him a high-profile White House position if he would end his candidacy for the Senate seat being held by Arlen Specter. Sestak stated that he quickly refused. Since the initial statement, Sestak has rarely been asked to elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the offer, and when questioned about the specifics of the offer on Midweek Politics with David Pakman, he stood ground on refusing to add additional information
As a candidate, Sestak campaigned to end the war in Iraq. Once in office in 2007, he supported Congressional efforts to re-deploy forces but ultimately voted for the no-strings-attached war supplemental that the House constructed after President Bush's veto, a bill that many critics of the Bush administration have called a "blank check" for the continuation of administration policies in the Middle East.
Sestak supported the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which critics contend continues the Bush administration's policy of warrantless wiretapping and provides retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who participated in the National Security Agency's "terrorist surveillance program." 
On April 22, 2008, he was interviewed as part of the Colbert Report's Better Know A District series. He said that he supports Senator Hillary Clinton for president, "because she has watched and observed the proper use of military force, not as the first step, like the Bush administration did; they walk, they clobber things with a big stick, and then we have to deal with the mess they've given us." When asked if he ever felt like a mushroom, Sestak joked, "Sometimes I feel as though my staff keeps me in the dark and feeds me ...", a reference to the use of compost in mushroom production.
During the 111th Congress, Congressman Sestak voted with the Democratic majority for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 , the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 , the American Clean Energy and Security Act , and the Affordable Health Care for America Act .
Sestak has "developed a reputation for being a temperamental and demanding boss" due to reports that thirteen staffers have quit his employment in 2007. Aides are purportedly expected to work seven days a week, including holidays, for 14 hours a day. Sestak justifies these hours, which are considered long even by the standards of Capitol Hill, by presuming to instill a military-minded "toughness" in his civilian staff. The website Legistorm, which tracks salaries of Congressional staffers and other public information, stated that Sestak had employed a total of 61 staff members since being sworn in in 2007. In comparison, Representatives Jason Altmire, Patrick Murphy, and Christopher Carney, the three other Pennsylvania Democrats elected in 2006, have employed a total of 28, 26, and 25 staff members, respectively, as reported by Real Clear Politics.
|2006 U.S. House election, 7th district of Pennsylvania|
|Republican||Curt Weldon (incumbent)||114,056||43.6||-15.2|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
|2008 U.S. House election, 7th district of Pennsylvania|
|Democratic||Joe Sestak (incumbent)||209,955||59.6||+3.2|
|Republican||Wendell Craig Williams||142,362||40.4||N/A|
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district
2007 – present