March 30, 2016

Obama and Biden endorse Katie McGinty for Senate over Sestak, Fetterman

It's the second time Obama has not endorsed Sestak in a primary

Politics U.S. Senate
Katie McGinty Matt Slocum/AP Photo

Former state environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty speaks during a Pennsylvania Democratic Gubernatorial Primary Debate, Thursday, May 8, 2014, in Philadelphia. McGinty lost to Tom Wolf in that primary but later became his chief of staff.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden endorsed Democrat Katie McGinty for U.S. Senate on Wednesday, giving her campaign a boost as she works to catch up to Joe Sestak's lead in the polls one month before the primaries.

"Katie is a true champion for working families, with a proven record of taking on big challenges and delivering for people," President Obama said in a statement on McGinty's campaign website. 

He said that McGinty, a Philly native, had "worked closely with my administration" to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania when she was Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff.

Vice President Biden, who was born in Scranton, said he was endorsing McGinty because she grew up with nine siblings in a working-class family and, therefore, "knows what it means to work hard, struggle to make ends meet, and build a better life, one day at a time."

There's not likely to be many tears shed in the Sestak campaign over Obama's choice of endorsement. Sestak didn't get the president's endorsement in the 2010 Senate primaries either, but still managed to beat Arlen Specter, who got the president's backing despite being a former Republican. Sestak then lost to Republican Pat Toomey in the general election.

In an e-mail sent to supporters, Sestak said that he has "deep respect" for Obama but has never asked for his endorsement. He noted that as a Congressional Representative during Obama's first term, he supported the president on issues like the Affordable Care Act, the DREAM Act and repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." 

"We wear the same battle scars, with pride. But that is also why I have never asked the President – nor anyone else in a position of power – to have my 6, not even by asking for their endorsement," he wrote, referring to a military term that means protecting someone's back. "As a leader, it is only about having the people’s 6, and because I have theirs, they will have mine."

recent poll from Franklin & Marshall College showed Sestak in the lead with 31 percent support from registered Democrats, McGinty second with 14 percent, and John Fetterman third with 7 percent.

However, almost half the respondents were still undecided, showing that the election could turn in any direction.

McGinty, who was the state's secretary of environmental protection during Gov. Ed Rendell's tenure, has also received endorsements from Sen. Bob Casey and Wolf. If elected, she would be the first female senator in Pennsylvania's history.

Sestak, on the other hand, has little support from party leaders, who didn't want him to run against Specter in 2010. The candidate has spun his spat with the establishment as an asset, bragging on his campaign website that he "bucked the entire Democratic Party leadership" when he ran against Specter.