Two House Democrats plan to buck the wishes of President Barack Obama by challenging incumbent Democrats for Senate positions next year.
Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania will probably go after Arlen Specter and Carolyn Maloney of New York will likely take on Kirsten Gillibrand, Politico news service reports.
Specter recently switched from the Republican Party, and Gillibrand was appointed by Gov. David Patterson to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat after she became secretary of state.
Sestak, a second-term Philadelphia-area congressman and retired admiral, says he will announce his challenge in about a month.
“I understand the very short-term, expedient desire to have the insurance of a 60th vote,” Sestak tells Politico. Assuming Al Franken takes office as Minnesota’s second senator, Specter gives Democrats a filibuster-proof majority with 60 seats.
Still, Sestak says of Obama: “I believe in his heart of hearts, he really wants a real Democrat to win this race, and I think he very much respects that we are pretty independent-minded in Pennsylvania and we should have a choice.”
Bottom line, Sestak says: Obama’s desires won’t affect his decision.
Maloney spokesman Joe Trippi, who would likely be her campaign strategist, says Obama won’t affect her decision either.
“She’s way past all that,” he told Politico.
“She really believes the people of New York deserve a choice. She’s not somebody who’s going to back down.”
Maloney will probably announce her candidacy “in a matter of days, not weeks,” Trippi says.
Obama did succeed in convincing Rep. Steve Israel to drop his threatened bid against Gillibrand.
Politico reports that Obama’s aim in New York is to placate Sen. Chuck Schumer, a crucial lawmaker on the health care issue. Schumer has acted as Gillibrand’s patron and urged the White House to act on her behalf.
“Now they can say, ‘A-ha, see Chuck? We tried,’” an anonymous New York Democrat tells Politico.
Obama already has alienated the liberal wing of the Democratic Party with his moderate stances on many issues. Those include gay marriage, which he opposes, and the release of photos showing alleged abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he also opposes.
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