Exclusive: Sestak gains – then loses – a state rep’s endorsement

Congressman Joe Sestak’s surging Senate campaign gained – and then lost – the endorsement of a state House

Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland

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.

About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

8 Responses to Exclusive: Sestak gains – then loses – a state rep’s endorsement

  1. I'm not writing my name on this post says:

    He’ll just be saying the same thing a week from now!

    Sestak is like the fat chick. He went Sestak early to avoid the rush. Nothin’ wrong with it.

  2. Pingback: Sestak gains – then loses – Rep. Kirkland’s endorsement… | GrassrootsPA

  3. Senator Sestak says:

    What an unusual story. Kirkland is an unimpressive flake. I’m sure he’ll be calling the Admiral for help for his Chester City district after he’s a Senator.

  4. Pingback: UPDATED: Lawmaker switches support to Sestak, then goes neutral | Politics PA

  5. Kathleen says:

    Thaddeus Kirkland serves as an example of the career politicians we must replace with honest, public servants.

    Man of his word? I think not. No guts, no glory. Whether its Sestak or Specter – neither should give Kirkland the time of day.

  6. David Diano says:

    There is a lot of pressure around the 7th district to support Sestak (or faith the wrath of his mindless minions). Many of Joe’s followers treat him like the Second Coming who walks on water (or like a magical unicorn who excretes rainbows).

    Actually, the LATEST tracking poll from Muhlenberg shows the race even. Sestak’s 4-point lead was caused by a +16 bad data point in the 05/07/10 one-day sample that caused an artificial 4-point bump in the 4-day average. Wednesday’s poll uses data from 05/08 through 05/11 and flushed out this bogus data driving the news.
    Basically, Sestak’s lead was “vapor” that has dissipated.

  7. Thomas Paine says:

    I wonder what the payoff to Kirkland was to reverse himself.

  8. Pingback: Kirkland update « State House Sound Bites

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