Joe Sestak is the product of the Philadelphia suburbs and a retired rear admiral who once commanded an aircraft carrier battle group. The former two-term congressman generated national headlines in 2010 when he toppled well-known, long-time U.S. senator Arlen Specter in a Democratic primary upset.
And he seems to like walking. In 2015, he started his second Senate bid with 24 days and 422 miles of walking — and some talking — across his home state.
Both of Sestak’s Senate campaigns fell short. But now, he is part of a crowded field of Democrats hoping to unseat President Donald Trump in 2020. Here is where Sestak stands on some key issues:
Climate change: Set a fee for carbon emissions. Support the Paris climate accord.
As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Sestak voted in 2009 for a bill that would have established a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions. He told Iowans this month that he favors attaching a fee to emissions and paying that revenue back to the public. His campaign website also says he would direct some of that revenue toward renewable energy research, as well.In addition, Sestak would have the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement.
Economy and trade: Support small businesses, especially minority-owned businesses. Back the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Sestak supports tax incentives to push venture capital funding toward small businesses and startups. He calls for cutting fees for minority-owned businesses on any loans from the Small Business Administration. And he backs more federal support for job training and apprenticeship programs.
The former congressman supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement from 2015 that included the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and eight other nations. (The U.S. Congress never approved the deal, and Trump withdrew the United States from the pact during his first week as president.) Sestak’s campaign website calls the trade deal “far from perfect” — he opposed some of its provisions back in 2015 — but the website also says he would seek improvements.
Education: Push colleges to limit tuition increases. Expand early childhood education.
Sestak would require colleges to limit tuition increases to below the rate of inflation, if they want access to federal student aid or student loans. He would also adjust the way interest rates on those student loans are calculated.
He also calls for early childhood education to be expanded to include 4-year-olds. And his campaign website supports the idea behind the Common Core standards for assessing students’ abilities in elementary school, middle school and high school. At the same time, the website acknowledges that “the Common Core standards are not perfectly written — especially in the lower grade levels.”
Foreign policy and the military: Welcome transgender service members. Re-join the Iran nuclear deal.
Sestak’s campaign website says that if any transgender Americans “are called to join and serve in the military, we should welcome them with open arms — and a customary salute — not a cold shoulder.” He has also repeatedly criticized Trump over foreign policy issues in recent weeks, tying the renewed friction between the United States and Tehran to Trump’s 2018 decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
Health care: Create a “public option” for health insurance.
Sestak voted for the Affordable Care Act, but while the law was being debated in Congress, he also said that he supported a “public option” for health insurance. As president, he would also prioritize allowing cheaper drugs to be imported into the U.S. from Canada, and directing more Medicaid funding toward addiction treatment services.
Immigration: Establish a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Sestak tweeted this month that he supports allowing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and new border security measures. He would end the Trump administration’s family separation practices, which his campaign website calls “shameful.” And he has called on U.S. officials to do more to ensure that Central American governments are using U.S. foreign aid effectively.
Social issues: Expand LGBTQ protections. Protect abortion access.
In a 2015 column for the Times Leader newspaper in Pennsylvania, Sestak argued for changes to federal law that would protect workers and homebuyers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He also backs federal legislation that would protect abortion access even if the Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.