Sestak On His Come-From-Behind Win Over Specter Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, talks to Michele Norris about his win over veteran Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched parties last year. Sestak's victory sets up the fall race as an intense liberal vs. conservative battle. He will now face off against Republican Pat Toomey, a conservative former congressman who almost unseated Specter six years ago.
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Sestak On His Come-From-Behind Win Over Specter

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Sestak On His Come-From-Behind Win Over Specter

Sestak On His Come-From-Behind Win Over Specter

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


Joe Sestak joins us now from his office on Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program.

SIEGEL: It's great to be with you, Michele. Thank you for this opportunity.

NORRIS: Now, you said shortly after your win yesterday that this was a victory of the people over the establishment. You repeated that again today in earlier interviews. But aren't you part of the establishment?

NORRIS: But what I found was that too often career politicians are more interested in keeping their job than in helping or serving people. And I'm a very pragmatic person. People ask me if I'm liberal or conservative. I say neither - I'm pragmatic. So I stood up to my party.

NORRIS: It's been reported that the White House at one point tried to get you to back away from this race. Who told you to back down?

NORRIS: Well, it's not...

NORRIS: And did that continue even after you started to gain on Arlen Specter?

NORRIS: So I told the individual, look, I'm getting this 'cause I don't think the deal helps Pennsylvanians. I wouldn't get out for a deal. I'd get out only if it were to be the right thing and it wasn't. And the fact that the working families in Pennsylvania endorsed me yesterday to be their fighter for them - 'cause they know you just don't vote for change, you got to go in there and fight for change in a broken Washington, D.C. - I think validated that decision to get in.

NORRIS: What is your view of President Obama and the job he's doing in office? And do you expect support from him in the general election?

NORRIS: He called me last evening, and what a gracious man, as Senator Specter did - equally gracious, and said, Joe, I'm here to support you. And I said, Mr. President, I want to be your strongest ally in the Senate to help you. But I'm not a yes man. But I think President Obama, having been given a pretty weak deck of cards to deal with, I think he's trying to truly do the right thing.

NORRIS: Pat Toomey, who you will face in the fall election, is an unabashed conservative. He will tell voters that this is who I am, this is what I am and this is what I believe in. During the campaign you called yourself a real Democrat. I'm curious about what that means, what it means to be a real Democrat.

NORRIS: So when we have 700 Pennsylvanians losing their health care every day and we're losing $150 billion in lost productivity because of the uninsured, boy, the common good of America is sure suffering, as well as that rugged individualism that we have.

NORRIS: He said, and this is a quote, "in fairness to Arlen, if the economy was okay and if there was no anti-incumbent wave, this would not have been a close election." What is your response to that?

NORRIS: Well, the only thing I was concerned about is whether the working families of Pennsylvania won at the end of the day. And rather than being saddled with someone who had pursued George Bush's agenda for eight years, they were able to now have a warrior for them that would've said, I can lose my job - and that's why I'm not running for my congressional job simultaneously - in order to fight for you, however it came about.

NORRIS: Congressman Sestak, thank you very much for your time.

NORRIS: Thank you.

NORRIS: That was Congressman Joe Sestak. He defeated Arlen Specter in Tuesday's primary. He'll face Pat Toomey in the fall mid-term elections.

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