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Hitting back, Specter calls Sestak a ‘flagrant hypocrite’ (Updated)

Hitting back, Specter calls Sestak a ‘flagrant hypocrite’ (Updated)

Despite campaigning across the state as a “true Democrat” ready to run against Senator Arlen Specter, Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) did not register as a Democrat until shortly before running for Congress three years ago, according to voter registration records.

Specter’s campaign pointed out Sestak’s registration history, first in a message to supporters Monday, later in follow-up messages to a reporter and again in a fierce statement against Sestak Thursday. After more than two months of remaining largely silent while Sestak attacked him at every turn, the remarks amounted to Specter’s first retaliation, and turned up the heat in a Senate primary that is likely to get far more contentious in the coming months.

“Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress,” Specter said in the statement. “His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the [military] service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process.”

In a statement Thursday evening, Sestak struck back at Specter for making what he called “swift-boat attacks.”

“We’ve learned today that Arlen Specter can abandon his party, but he just can’t quit making Republican swift-boat attacks on the integrity of Democrats who served in our military,” Sestak said.

He pointed out times that he had voted by absentee ballot while serving overseas, and defended his registration as an independent as fitting with his status in the military.

“Like Colin Powell (who was also registered as an Independent while he served), I believe that military officers should be nonpartisan,” Sestak said. “The military depends on cohesion and unity, and the defense of this nation must never be political.  I’m proud that I was an Independent during my 35 years in the Navy, and I was proud to register as a Democrat as soon as I retired from active duty.”

A right-to-know request filed by in Sestak’s home of Delaware County confirmed that Sestak did indeed register as a Democrat on February 2, 2006. The request also confirmed most of the Specter campaign’s account of how often Sestak voted in general elections, with the exception of the 1992 general election. Specter said Sestak didn’t vote then, but records show he did.

The revelations, whether or not they will matter to primary voters, mean that Specter has technically been registered as a Democrat for more total years than Sestak. Specter was a Democrat in Philadelphia decades ago before re-registering as a Republican when he won the city’s District Attorney office. Sestak has not officially declared his candidacy, but is touring the state and is increasingly seen as all but certain to challenge Specter for the nomination.

UPDATES: The full statements and Specter’s rebuttal

July 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments [45] | post a comment

  1. [...] Hitting back, Specter calls Sestak a ‘flagrant hypocrite’… [...]

  2. Stosh

    Jul 9th, 2009

    Sestak missed another 17 votes yesterday. Will he refund 14% of his salary to taxpayers, the percent of votes he has missed so far this year?

  3. Julie

    Jul 9th, 2009

    Oh no.. this kind ruins Joe Sestak’s whole narrative. How could Joe Sestak attack Specter for something he’s guilty of himself??

  4. JT

    Jul 9th, 2009

    How does this ruin his narrative?! Sestak has been a D since he left the military in 2006. Specter, has been a D while it has been politically expedient (i.e. for a few weeks this time around).

  5. Jack

    Jul 9th, 2009

    Is old Arlen fearful of the Admiral?

    How will the Specter Camp debunk him being a “true republican” for 30 years? Stumping and voting for Republican candidates and attacking Democratic candidates across the country?

    This should be fun.

  6. Mark

    Jul 9th, 2009

    So who was a democrat first…like, who cares?

    How about what have they done while in D.C. and who,s hands were deeper in the financial industries cookie jar.

    Want to know? go to…

  7. John K.

    Jul 9th, 2009

    Wow, Specter did his homework and won this round!

  8. Lee Levan

    Jul 9th, 2009

    I don’t know how you guys keep score. Specter won this round? By pointing out that Sestak never has been a Republican while Specter was one for 30 plus years? Or was it by Specter solidly supporting George Bush during the past 8 years?
    Do you disagree that military service should be non-partisan?

  9. Emily

    Jul 9th, 2009

    That’s pretty desprate on Specter part and how he is trouble.

  10. Chester

    Jul 9th, 2009

    I thought military people were also non-partisan. Specter is so sad.

  11. Bryan

    Jul 9th, 2009

    After reading, I’m voting for Joe Sestak.

  12. Jordan

    Jul 9th, 2009

    Does Specter really want to contrast why he wasn’t registered Democrat with why an Admiral was registered?

    This was Specter’s race to loose. I respect his honestly is why he switched parties, honestly alone doesn’t change who crass and purely self-interested his decision was

  13. David Diano

    Jul 9th, 2009

    I don’t know about 1992, but records show that Sestak didn’t vote in the 2001 or 2002 General elections. Sestak’s sparse voting record came up a lot during the 2006 campaign.

    Sestak’s been shoveling this “military officers should be independence” horse-hockey for a while now. I’m pretty sure that ALL the Sestak’s in Delaware county were registered as Independents and didn’t switch until Joe ran, and NONE of them were active military officers (his dad was already retired). So, it sounds unlikely that ANY Sestak would have switched to Dem after Joe retired, if he didn’t run for Congress.

    The point of Specter’s quote: “Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat…”

    I was a little disappointed that they didn’t call him a 4-star hypocrite.

    HEY, SPECTER CAMPAIGN: you can use my “4-star hypocrite” line free and clear, without attribution. Enjoy! (I’ve got more where that came from.)

    Stosh- Kudos for wading through the data.

    Answer: Because Sestak IS a hypocrite.

    Also: Sestak, has been a D while it has been politically expedient (when Admiral Mullen got in, stopped Sestak’s military career in it’s tracks, Sestak quit, Sestak decided to run for office, and Sestak had to decide to challenge Weldon as an R in a Primary, or as a D in the General).

    You can’t throw a rock in Delaware county without hitting a Dem that voted for Specter at some point. Specter has NEVER been a hard-core, ideological Republican. He’s always straddled the fence and is generally treated as more of an Independent. In Delco, he has consistently “rocked” the Jewish Dem vote.
    I don’t know so much that Arlen is fearful, but it would be foolish to let Sestak’s attacks go unanswered. This is especially when so few know how shallow Sestak’s Dem “credentials” really are.

    It looks like they have their hands in similar cookie jars. However, it’s hard to compare a 30 year Senator’s career to a congressman with only one full term of voting, and the changes in issues and when money was received relative to votes/elections. What is clear is that Sestak raised a lot of money he didn’t need or spend last election cycle. That money is going to be diverted from the 7th district into a foolish Senate race.

    John K.-
    The Specter campaign probably did some of their homework by reading this blog.

    I hope you are getting some nice hit-counts on the site.

  14. Mike

    Jul 10th, 2009

    Hope you kept track of Specter’s missed votes in June, lost count over 100.

    It’s easy, Joe Sestak is the only true Democrat in the race. Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak elected in 2006. Republican Senator Arlen Specter elected in 1980; switched parties 2 months ago.




    John K,
    Yeah “swift-boating” a 35 year veteran in PA, very smart by Specter! Sestak just secured the vote in the western part of the state.






    ohhhhhhhhhh pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaasssssseee!!

  15. gomer

    Jul 10th, 2009

    Specter is desperate. Look in the mirror if you want to see a hypocrite. Being a Democrat when it was convenient and siding with George W. Bush countless times. It is time to retire Arlen Specter from politics.

  16. David Diano

    Jul 10th, 2009

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, mimicking my style is different from actually making, or backing up, your points.

    BTW, what’s with the 35 years vet number now? Sestak’s site and all his press releases claim he’s a 31 year vet. Doesn’t he know how long he was in the navy? (Sounds like he’s suddenly adding his years in the academy).

    HEY SPECTER CAMPAIGN: make a clip of Sestak now claiming 35 years in the Navy, then show any of the 500 clips of Sestak talking about 31 years.

    BTW, Sestak was registered as in Independent for only 34 years.

  17. Mike

    Jul 10th, 2009


    No need to back up my points. The previous posters were correct. The truth shall set you free.

    Brevity is the key to life.

  18. David Diano

    Jul 10th, 2009

    The biggest fans of “not backing up points” are the Rush Limbaugh “ditto heads” (because they respond “Ditto” to every idiotic thing Rush spews).
    I don’t think you are going to be declared a “Brilliant-head” for your responses.

    Try getting out of “Sestak’s Cave” and looking at the shadows he casts. (hint: see Plato’s Cave)

    You like brevity? Then I’m surprised that you weren’t impressed by Specter’s short statements, and depressed by Sestak’s long-winded (and contradictory) statements.

  19. Ergotism › Lame Excuse

    Jul 10th, 2009

    [...] Arlin Specter sez: “Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress,” Specter said in the statement. “His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the [military] service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process.” [...]

  20. R Farrell

    Jul 10th, 2009

    What a moron!

  21. Jack

    Jul 10th, 2009

    There’s something off about using the word “lame” and “military service” in the same sentence.

    I just hope everyone here takes the Spencer-approach and just ignores Diano.

    Also, the comedy of Diano talking about brevity is just too much to take.

  22. Lee Levan

    Jul 10th, 2009


    Your brevity note still has me laughing. Thank you.


    To your comment, I might add that there’s a difference between backing up points with relevant facts and logical reasoning, on the one hand, and “backing them up” with anecdotes, digressions, irrelevancies and non sequiturs.

  23. [...] if Arlen Specter is this tone deaf, Sestak might have a better shot than [...]

  24. TheMortonMagician

    Jul 10th, 2009

    Let’s back up a second here:

    1 – Sestak was a NAVY ADMIRAL on ACTIVE DUTY when he was registered as NON-PARTISAN. This is a reasonable choice many active duty military personnel make to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest in their military duties. Does Specter really want to go there??? I doubt it – Google “Curt Weldon” for several reasons why.

    2 – Sestak was registered as NON-PARTISAN during his 30 Year active military career. Specter was a REPUBLICAN pushing the REPUBLICAN AGENDA for 43 years – two slightly different situations perhaps?

    - The Morton Magician

  25. David Diano

    Jul 10th, 2009

    Jack (no last name)-
    I never said I was a fan of brevity. It’s often the substitute for lack of something substantive to say (as you have so clearly shown).

    Sestak’s been using his years in the military like it’s some magic shield that can’t be questioned or as a distraction when he can’t answer a question. His record does not absolve him from the explaining the very points he’s been attacking regarding Specter.

    Also, Sestak’s military record contains some red flags that he was shifted around a lot and didn’t get along well with others (which is the nice way of saying it). I get the distinct impression that the military was glad to be rid of him (lots of applause from those that served under him). I also suspect that he was forced out of his NSC job at the White House. (It seems very odd to get up to the level a White House gig, then go back to the fleet.)

    “anecdotes, digressions, irrelevancies and non sequiturs”
    …. you described just about every speech and interview Sestak has ever given.

  26. David Diano

    Jul 10th, 2009

    Oops, I meant Lee, not Mike on that last comment.

  27. Judy C.

    Jul 10th, 2009

    Who’s calling who a hypocrite? Arlen’s been the biggest hypocrite in the US Senate for how long now? It’s time to retire this hypocrite.

  28. Josh Eisenberg

    Jul 10th, 2009

    The race is over. There’s the knockout punch. People will forgive a lot of things, but not a hypocrite.

  29. Michael

    Jul 10th, 2009

    HA! I wouldn’t vote for either of these loons.

  30. David Diano

    Jul 11th, 2009

    Bill Kortz is also a candidate.

  31. Kerfluffle

    Jul 11th, 2009

    Methinks this is hilarious!

    Pot: You’re black!
    Kettle: You’re blacker!
    Pot: You’re blacker-est!
    Kettle: So’s yer ol’ lady!

    Vote Kortz.

  32. bruno

    Jul 12th, 2009

    Gotta wonder if Joe and Arlen are gay lovers.

  33. David Diano

    Jul 12th, 2009

    That’s some weird “wondering” you’ve got going on in your brain.

  34. SFC Don

    Jul 13th, 2009

    As a Democrat who has served in the military for 24 years (most of it in the Reserve and National Guard), I can totally related to Joe Sestak’s approach on this. I never volunteered for a campaign, paid party dues, or got involved in any way other than voting until AFTER I left active duty. His position on this is principled — something that Arlen Specter must find difficult if not possible to understand.

    Referring to Sestak’s military service as a “lame excuse”??? Obviously, whichever campaign staffer wrote that crap has never served anything other than his or her self-interest. That comment is DEEPLY offensive to those of us who serve our country and fellow citizens with pride.

    Sestak had a great response to that: “I never considered my military service to our country a ‘lame excuse’ for anything, but rather an honor.”

    Army’s supporting Navy in this one. Go Sestak!

  35. David Diano

    Jul 13th, 2009

    SFC Don-
    It’s “lame” in Sestak’s case because:

    1) Sestak’s family was also Independent until they switched to Dem when Joe ran. So, the lack of party affiliation appears to be more how his family was raised, but NOW he’s trying to pretend that it was military service. I’m not buying it that he would have switched to Dem, once he retired, if he hadn’t run.

    2) Sestak is trying to claim the mantle of a “real” Democrat, without any history to prove it. His excuse just doesn’t hold water. I’ve got Dem friends that registered as Dem. And I’ve met recovering Republican servicemen that were TOLD to register Republican by their commanding officers.
    Sestak was under no obligation by the military to register one way or another, so for Sestak to blame the military for his own lack of political conviction is LAME.

    3) To me, the very idea that military personnel should avoid expressing their political opinion or engage in the political process is out dated concept that need to go the way of segregation of the forces. The soldiers are the best of the best, but the military culture around them still has a lot of antiquated ideas that prevent them from being the “best they can be” by holding them back from experiencing the full range of the freedoms they are protecting.
    For example, I’m completely opposed to the idea that military personnel can’t criticize the President if they think he has a bad policy that’s risking their lives. “Unit cohesion” is often used by the higher ups to continue bad policies (segregation, ban on gays, etc.) and not have to admit mistakes or confront the people paying for their mistakes.

    4) Don, just because YOU are a principle person who has honor, don’t assume that Sestak is like you, just because he served. Try reaching out and talking to the people that served under him to find out if he treated them with the proper respect.

  36. Lee Levan

    Jul 13th, 2009


    More innuendo (1) and (4), anecdotal reasoning (2), and expecting everyone to act as you think (3).

    If you truly believe that registering independent while a navy officer on active duty (Sestak) is more damaging to a claim of being a true Democrat than is holding public office as a Republican for 30 years (Specter), then I suggest you get yourself an alaytical tune up.

  37. Lee Levan

    Jul 13th, 2009

    That should have been “analytical”.

  38. Matt

    Jul 13th, 2009

    Dave, Please give it up. How would it be politically advantageous for Joe to run as a Democrat in 2006? The pulurality of Republicans in 2006 was staggering, not to mention that he was running against Curt Weldon who was a ten term incumbent that no one thought could lose. You are talking about delaware county Dave, where out side of a few municipalities there are no elected Democrats. So Congressman Sestak ran as a Dem for political expediency? Sure Dave, that makes sense. Look you are pissed he didn’t use your program, I know it, you know it, why don’t you just be honest and say it. And as to whether he has been a Democrat longer than Arlen, who cares? Look at how either of them voted in office and then you tell me who the real Democrat is. Joe is a good congressman, he handles 10000 constituency concerns a year, and if you are keeping score, that is 6500 more than the next congressman. He is the only one in our county to help people divert Mortgage Foreclosure. I don’t care who he voted for in the Navy, under what party or how often, Joe is a good Congressman, and a hell of a human being. If I ask his office a question I get an answer, a real answer that is detailed, informative, and unbiased. I don’t mean to bash you Dave, I think you are a good guy, but I will not have you constantly harass Joe over nonsense and keep quiet.

  39. David Diano

    Jul 13th, 2009

    I’m not saying that Independent vs Republican is a “winning” argument for Specter. But, Sestak’s the one taking the shot, and Specter doesn’t have any “great” counter-arguments. He has to go with what he has to work with. Sestak’s own explanation is weak (and I believe disingenuous). Specter is certainly within his prerogative to question Sestak’s claims, especially considering Sestak’s conservative votes.

    Matt (no last name)
    Do you honestly think he could have run against Weldon in the Republican Primary? There was ZERO chance there. He would have been lucky to even get on the ballot. Weldon certainly couldn’t have lost his own Primary.

    In 2004, the Dems crossed the magic 40% threshold against Weldon, with a candidate that started his campaign in August (because the original candidate got shipped off to Iraq). Given the anti-war trend, and desire to take back congress, ‘Dem’ was the ONLY choice for Sestak politically (regardless of his own personal ideological preference). It DOES make sense, and you DON’T.

    As for my program:
    1) the campaign used it the first 6 months
    2) the campaign thought it valuable enough to steal a copy of the data when they switched over to SAGE as part of the coordinated campaign with Rendell and Casey
    3) I defended Sestak vigorously on the blogs as late as April 2007 regarding CAIR (long after anything involving my program)
    4) I went after Sestak for his betrayal of the voters and the troops when he supported a blank check for Bush on Iraq.

    This “10,000 constituency cases” still seems a little bogus as it has no real context.
    1) What were Weldon’s numbers? (comparing to other districts is irrelevant)
    2) How many more many hours is he forcing his staff to spend? (is it unpaid overtime?)
    3) How “successful” are the cases (what’s the batting average vs times at bat?)
    4) How many of these cases are completely frivolous and an inappropriate waste, just so Sestak can inflate his numbers?

    I don’t vote/campaign for a candidate based upon their constituency services program. Except for real emergency situations and to collect basic feedback/information about key issues, I think the entire concept is ridiculous and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Every candidate gets ZERO points for that in my book (Weldon supposedly was pretty responsive that way too, but he voted wrong.)
    Sestak’s votes that were completely contrary to his campaign promises, the Dem party, and basic constitutional principles about congressional oversight are my reasons to wish him out of office.
    His completely arrogant attitude and disrespect for his fellow Democrats is the icing on the cake that proves (to me) that all the “honor” he talks about is something the military taught, but he failed to learn.

  40. Anonymous

    Jul 19th, 2009

    Wasn’t Arlan Sphincter Specter the guy who campaigned for laws about changing party affiliation while holding an office? Hummm…

    This guy doesn’t give a damn about you or me. It’s obvious his only desire is to hold on to his cushy senate seat.

    Time to get rid of this Turn coat weasel.

    I may even consider changing parties to help effect the outcome of the primaries….

    I can’t think of a more lothesome individual in politics today.

    Arlan’s agenda is clear! Keep that senate seat at all costs.


    Jul 27th, 2009

    Specter is going to win. If Joe-mentum is so confident, why feel the need to misrepresent prominent party leaders in an EMail. Joe-Mentum… try Joe-Mumma

  42. Anonymous

    Aug 7th, 2009

    @David Diano:

    Could you please reference your active court case for your claim of theft.

    Yeah I thought not. If you really wanted to stop Sestak, and your claim had any merit, you wouldn’t be tarnishing your own reputation posting lunatic ravings here, you would simply have taken Sestak to court.

    You’ve made it clear that your motivation for your attacks is a personal vendetta. Good luck with that.

  43. B.D. Hilton

    Aug 20th, 2009

    How can senators Arlen Specter and Robert Casey appoint 3 members to a 8 member Board of Review to choose, interview and recommend the next US Attorney’s for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?

    Senator Casey’s brother Chris Casey has been appointed to this committee. Joined by Mathew Casey’s (Another Brother Of senator Robert Casey) Law Partner, and senator Specter’s son Law Partner was also chose.

    When did America and the Department of Justice become a Family Affair of Royalty not seen since the Kennedy Days that force congress to pass laws to prevent such nepotism in the DOJ. These appointments are not the way to secure fair and equal justice without any winking from sons and brothers Law Partners?

    These US Attorneys will be beholden to under due influence a long with the committee wanting to please senator Casey and Specter.

    This is a crystal clear violation of ethics, conflict of interests, and outright power grab by two senators to force their appointments by what family members approve. This is the problem America has been doing with interlocking Board Of Directors on Wall Street helping each other out.

    I cannot believe in all of Pennsylvania there can be found no Lawyers, Judges, and Law Professors that do not require family relations to be on this so-called unbias and fair committee to choose our next US Attorneys.

    This is just plain wrong and must be reversed, where is the press, and ethics commission and what are Casey and Specter thinking by doing such things in todays world of corruption due to undue personal influences?

  44. NEPA Voter

    Oct 23rd, 2009

    Yet another reason to vote for Toomey in the general!

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