Senate candidate Sestak stops by York Dispatch

Greg Gross

Joe Sestak, the former U.S. Navy admiral and congressman who is running for U.S. Senate, stopped by The York Dispatch office Wednesday for a meeting with its editorial board.

The 64-year-old is in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination to likely face incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in November. Sestak will square off against York native and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and former top aide to Wolf Katie McGinty in the April 26 primary.

Also running on the Republican ticket against Toomey is Philadelphia businessman Everett Stern.

Here's a bit of what Sestak had to say about various issues:

Three concerns he's heard from voters:

  1. What gives with public officials from both parties.  "They (voters) just don't trust anymore. And you can't blame them.”
  2. Wages that increases with inflation. The typical American is making about $4,000 less annually than in 1999.
  3. Education. Parents worry about the cost to send their children to college, and there is a lack of options for students wanting to take up a skilled trade to receive training. 

Climate change: The changing climate and rising sea levels pose a real threat that will lead to future crisis, Sestak said.

The threat is being taken so seriously that the Navy is building higher piers at its Norfolk, Virginia, base, the largest one in the world, where the current ones are already becoming immersed in water at high tide.

"This is a national security issue," Sestak said.

Though there is a large faction of people who deny climate change, some are starting to see the warning signs. Pope Francis' take on the matter has helped, Sestak said.

“I found that as I talked to Republicans. ... I do find that there is more of a movement," he said. “We need to show that it affects the pocketbook.”

Veterans issues: More has to be done to take care of veterans, Sestak, who served in the Navy from 1974 to 2005, said.

“That is the cost of war. You have to take care of people when they come home," he said, contending Toomey hasn't always voted in support of veterans.

Improvements should be made in areas of helping veterans find jobs as soon as they leave the military and medical assistance, for example to those with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

The Patriot Express Loan Pilot Program, offered through the Small Business Administration to veterans who want to create a business, should be made permanent, said Sestak, who held a meeting with veterans at the Spring Grove VFW on Wednesday.

Presidential candidates: Asked which of the candidates for president he'd work best with, Sestak said he would be able to “work with any of the top ones.”

He previously worked with then-first lady Hillary Clinton on Agent Orange issues plaguing Vietnam veterans and later worked with her when their time on Capitol Hill overlapped. Sestak was in Congress from 2008 to 2011, and Clinton was in the Senate from 2002 to 2009, when she became secretary of state and served in that role until 2013.

Sestak said he's also been impressed with Bernie Sanders' work. He also said he'd be able to work with a Republican in the Oval Office.

The presidential race has been inundated with candidates claiming to be outsiders and anti-establishment candidates. Sestak said he has become an anti-establishment candidate in his race of sorts.

"Anti-establishment. I'll take the label," he said. "But what's really for me is one of pro-people."

— Reach Greg Gross at