Yes, that Joe Sestak – boatman extraordinaire who commanded Navy battleships and the USS George Washington carrier strike group, held a national security perch at the White House, was a two-term Democratic congressman from PA’s Seventh C.D. and managed to upend the estimable Democratic upstart, Arlen Specter, in the primary for U.S. Senate before finally succumbing (didn’t they all that year?) to his Republican opponent in 2010, Pat Toomey. Since then, he seems to have made a career of criss-crossing the state thanking his supporters and staying in close touch with the political pulse of the Commonwealth.
But there he was in his Navy shell, projecting his usual quiet intensity talking about a young man whom he got to know while toiling on his Senate campaign. Kleinman did outreach for him, focusing heavily on the Jewish community and approached the job with the steadfastness that a military man like Sestak can admire. “I want to talk about Nate Kleinman.”
Sestak spoke of Kleinman’s work ethic – “chipping and chipping away.” He recalled that when Kleinman was reaching out to an important supporter who needed a push beyond what a staffer could deliver, he’d approach the congressman: “Excuse me, sir: Would you do me a favor . . .?”
“He’s a man of character and a great person . . . I’d go to war with Nate Kleinman. That’s how I judge people. Would he be there for me or in a war for America?”
“Character” is a hot-button issue for Sestak. He says, “We’re in a fight for America’s character,” in a battle “between rugged individualism and the common enterprise.” The retired Admiral believes in the melding of the two with that special American chemistry as the catalyst. He also sees it as the responsibility of those who climb the ladder of success to make sure that they leave additional rungs along the way to help support those who come after them. “A common mission – of ladders and rungs.”
Sestak wended his way back to Kleinman: “And that’s what I think he brings. I saw it.” And another trait: “a great heart.”
Then Sestak got back into campaign mode and barked an order to the congressional candidate: “Get to work!”
If he is to be competitive on April 24, Kleinman had better do just that. Dubbed the “Occupy candidate” for Congress, Kleinman was a decided underdog when he jumped into the race, beginning with collecting signatures to secure his place on the ballot almost two months ago. When his opponent, veteran Democratic Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, challenged his petitions in the not-so-grand tradition of PA’s petty party politics, Kleinman willingly got booted off the ballot rather than engage in a protracted and potentially expensive court fight and is now running a write-in campaign. In accordance with PA election law, Schwartz could have filed to saddle Kleinman with court costs but eventually decided to forgo the option.
Given Kleinman’s surprise entrance into the race, the lack of time to put together an effective campaign organization on the ground or a high-powered fundraising operation means that the progressive insurgent will have to rely primarily on free media attention. Kleinman and his aides are settling on a media strategy now for the final push, as they stare down Schwartz’s huge financial advantage of some $2.3 million in the bank as of the close of 2011, most of which she likely hopes to keep tucked away for the general election and beyond.
A mainstay of Kleinman’s regimen continues to be his commitment to Occupy Philly events, regardless of whether they are especially beneficial to his election prospects. The candidate has been active on the heated Philadelphia issue of the right of service organizations to continue to provide meals to homeless people in the open air on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He also will be teaching a course on the “Unfinished Revolution: A Comparative History of the American Revolution and the Occupy Movement” at the newly launched Free University of Philadelphia, a project of Occupy Philly.
Meanwhile, a glance at the Schwartz campaign facebook and web pages show plenty of media interviews but no campaign events and an outdated endorsement list. The congresswoman’s political engine appears to be idling comfortably.
The new and Democratically “improved” (through reapportionment) 13th C.D. has added Cheltenham, East Norriton and parts of Lower Merion and Upper Merion as well as Norristown, Bridgeport and Conshohocken. It lost Lower Frederick, New Hanover, Towamencin and Upper Frederick, a district in Upper Hanover, and Upper Salford, as well as parts of Hatfield, Horsham, Lower Gwynedd, Springfield, Upper Gwynedd and Whitpain. The district now includes all of Abington and Lower Salford and more of Northeast Philadelphia.