Exclusive: Sestak gains – then loses – a state rep’s endorsement
May 11, 2010 8 Comments
Congressman Joe Sestak’s surging Senate campaign gained – and then lost – the endorsement of a state House
Democrat this afternoon.
Around 9:30 this morning, the Sestak campaign sent out a press release touting the endorsement of Delaware County Democrat Thaddeus Kirkland, who had previously backed Senator Arlen Specter. The two were slated to make a joint appearance in Harrisburg at 2:00.
A few hours later, sources outside the Sestak campaign told me Kirkland was pulling out of the event and reconsidering the endorsement.
Sestak’s campaign spokesman explained Kirkland had a scheduling conflict, but quickly set up a joint phone interview with both Kirkland and Sestak, where the lawmaker explained why he was backing Sestak. “He has run an honest and upbeat campaign,” Kirkland said, “and not a negative one, which I see being run by Specter.” Here’s the audio:
Kirkland went on to say, “I think he’s the better man for the job because of his integrity, his honesty, his commitment to the folks. He’s a Democrat, true and blue.”
Sestak said he was honored by the endorsement. “What a great leader,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Things changed about twenty minutes later, when Kirkland called my cell phone to take back his endorsement. Conceding the awkwardness of the situation, he said, “I need to be neutral. I respect them both.” Kirkland declined to elaborate on his reasons for the sudden shift.
Sestak was surprised by the news – he hadn’t heard about the non-endorsement until I asked for reaction at the Harrisburg event — but said he doesn’t take it personally. “Look – I do understand, running against the establishment, that things can get a little hard out there. But I don’t know what happened, in this case.”
Specter’s campaign manager, Chris Nicholas, declined to weigh in on Kirkland’s shift.
Sestak trailed Specter by wide margins for most of the campaign, but now holds a four point lead, according to the latest tracking poll from Muhlenberg College.