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Torsella to bow out of Senate race

Democrat Joe Torsella is calling off his bid for the Senate, a campaign source confirmed Thursday evening.

In a video to be released to supporters soon, a transcript of which was provided by someone inside the campaign, Torsella said that he was “initially reluctant to quit something that so many people had thrown themselves into, heart and soul.

“But now that the dust has settled,” Torsella said, “it’s clear to me that the kind of campaign this would become is not the kind of campaign I—or you—signed up for. It would probably be negative, personal, and more about Senator Specter’s past than our common future and that won’t do Pennsylvania any good.”

Even as he insisted he would stay in the primary fight against newly-Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, party insiders had called his departure from the race inevitable. He was widely seen as running with the backing of Gov. Ed Rendell, who threw his weight behind Specter when the longtime Republican switched parties recently.

“I want you to know that no one asked me to take this step and I haven’t asked for anything or been offered anything in exchange,” Torsella said in the video, according to the transcript. “As with my decision to run in the first place, this simply feels to me and my family to be the right thing to do. And I want you to know, I’m not going anywhere. I intend to play an active part in the conversation about renewing America that has started in Washington, but is far from finished. I’m going to stay active in Democratic politics.”

People close to Torsella had acknowledged his disappointment that Specter’s switch had thrown a monkey-wrench into what looked to be a promising campaign. Torsella had
raised $600,000 in the first six weeks of his fundraising efforts, much of it from allies of Rendell and even from Rendell himself. He had built a high-profile political team, including a longtime media strategist close to the governor.

Torsella’s exit leaves Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) as the most likely Democrat to buck party leaders and challenge Specter in next year’s primary.

His impending exit from the race was first reported by Politico.

May 14, 2009 at 5:49 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments [12] | post a comment

  1. shizzy

    May 14th, 2009

    I wish he would stay in. Like it has been said, the primary system is pretty useless if party leaders just chase everyone out.

  2. David Diano

    May 14th, 2009

    Well, that’s a shame.
    What happens to the $600,000?

  3. Lee

    May 14th, 2009


    Like all things in life, there needs to be some balance between leadership by the party heirarchy and free competition for party nominations. Like you, the Specter switch (aside from whether it will prove beneficial to the Democratic Party) seems rather heavy handed and isn’t going down well with me. I have the feeling that Torsella was too much a creation of Rendell to stay in the race after the governor pulled the plug on his support for Torsella’s campaign.

    Sestak may be sufficiently independent to enable him to challenge Specter. The ball remains in Specter’s court to demonstarte that he’s going to vote with the Dems. If he doesn’t, I believe he’s vulnerable to a strong primary challenger.

  4. shizzy

    May 14th, 2009

    I agree he is vulnerable. He can’t play best friend one day, then show he isn’t party line the next. It won’t work, and it frustrating to me. But, answer me this, if Sestak was a Rendell creation, then was Rendell obligated to support Specter as soon as he switched? It still seems like back room stuff. Which is fine, but how about just get rid of the primary?

  5. Delco Dandy

    May 14th, 2009

    Torsella for gov?????

  6. [...] he, the Democratic Party and Governor Ed Rendell have cooked up. Point is, Joe Torsella (pictured) is out of the Senate race, and that is a bittersweet thing indeed. On the upside, we can safely assume Philly gets Torsella [...]

  7. Guy

    May 15th, 2009

    Forget Torsella. If Sestak get’s in, then Bryan Lentz is pretty much the party favorite to replace him. He’s an Iraq war vet, former prosecutor, advocate for organized labor and has a solid voting record in the state house. He was a leader in passing the Governor’s energy independence program-drawing on his experience in Iraq and making the argument that renewable energy policy is directly related to security because of our dependence on OPEC. He’s the real deal.

  8. Lee

    May 16th, 2009

    ” But, answer me this, if Sestak was a Rendell creation, then was Rendell obligated to support Specter as soon as he switched? It still seems like back room stuff. Which is fine, but how about just get rid of the primary?”

    shizzy, I’m sure that your question was rhetorical (and that you meant Torsella, not Sestak). Of course, Rendell abandoned his buddy as soon as Specter switched parties. Happens all the time (back room or store front); doesn’t make it right. Then again, circumstances change and people have to make choices.

    Why have a primary? Because we get to make choices, too. The party pros, including Rendell, didn’t get their nominee for president last year, did they?

  9. David Diano

    May 16th, 2009

    Sestak was a Clinton camp creation. However, in Feb 2006, Rendell cleared the field for Sestak by getting Bryan Lentz to drop out of the primary.

    Ideal outcome is that Sestak runs for Senate, gets his a$$ handed to him in the primary, moves back to Virginia, and we get Lentz as our congressman.

    Foolish, reckless and egotistical as Sestak is, I don’t think he’s going to challenge Specter. This is all a lot of bluster to raise money and hoping Specter commits political suicide at some point.

    Once Specter votes for EFCA, he’s got the unions, and Sestak has no place to turn for support.

  10. Lee

    May 16th, 2009


    Maybe your price, or Labor’s, (to support Specter) is a single vote cast as you want it to be. Mine is a little higher than that. I don’t believe that I am alone in my view. Specter needs to establish a record, not be merely a one hit wonder, to establish himself as a real Democrat.

    Also your disdain for Sestak is obviously coloring your view of his potential challenge to Specter. The issue now is who best can represent PA beginning in 2011; not who was successful in 2006 against your candidate (Lentz).

  11. David Diano

    May 18th, 2009

    Of course Labor’s price is that vote, because that is key to reversing the loss of union membership due to roadblocks put in by the GOP over the past few decades.

    Specter is already voting more with the Dems, than conservative Dem senators like Nelson.

    My point it that Specter WILL establish a sufficient Dem record. Going against EFCA is a blunder he won’t make.

    Sestak has a lot of varnish and little actual substance. Watch the weasel-like way he answers the tough questions by jumping off to some irrelevant but patriotic sounding story. With over $3 million in the bank, he’s a big fish in a small pond like the 7th district. Statewide, there’s not enough air for his sails.

    From a campaigning standpoint, there is no deep strategic thinking. It’s all brute force. One of the reasons he needs to gather so many loyal workers and push them with long hours is that his operations tend to be inefficient. It’s quantity over quality. He’s got a tight inner circle (like Bush or Cheney) of monolithic thinkers who are blind to Joe’s flaws are unable to understand why anyone wouldn’t like Joe.

    As for Lentz, he would have kicked Sestak’s ass in the primary, assuming Sestak even got enough signatures to get on the ballot. When Sestak arrived, he had ZERO local infrastructure. Once Lentz pulled out, the committee people and Delco Dem leadership that handle the petition process were free to focus on Sestak and get him signatures.
    Whether Lentz could have beaten Weldon is a separate question, but back in Spring 2006, Lentz would have crushed Sestak in Primary.

    Back to Sestak… he ran and got elected on his anti-war platform, that he abandoned when it came time to vote. He’s shown he can’t be trusted with a six-year seat.

  12. Guy

    May 20th, 2009

    Dave–Lentz would have beaten Weldon. C’mon. No offense to Sestak, but I think that he’s a better candidate. Sestak has a good profile and everything, but Lentz is a workhorse who personally knocked on close to 25,000 doors and can fire up a crowd better than Sestak.

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