WASHINGTON – Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro has fielded calls from Democratic leaders urging him to jump into the race for U.S. Senate, according to an Associated Press report.
Shapiro has spoken with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) – who is set to become the Senate's top Democrat in the next Congress – and Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), who is leading Democrats' 2016 Senate campaign efforts, AP reported.
So far former Congressman Joe Sestak is the only Democrat running in the race to take on Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.). But many Democrats are wary of the unconventional Sestak in a race that will be critical to the party's hopes of taking back the Senate.
Shapiro has long been known to be considering a run for Senate, but also weighing the idea of a bid for attorney general, according to Democratic insiders.
When Sestak launched his Senate run in March Tester told the Inquirer he had "spoken to "a ton of folks" in Pennsylvania about the race and that "if there's a primary, there's a primary. It's part of the democratic way, right?"
But while several Democrats have openly said they are considering a run, no others have jumped in.
Asked recently about the prospect of a primary fight, Sestak said, "A D.C. candidate is not going to play well in Pennsylvania."
He has played up his grassroots support.
Sestak angered Democratic leaders in 2010 by running against the late Sen. Arlen Specter, when Democrats from President Obama on down wanted to clear the field for the longtime incumbent. Sestak still beat Specter in a primary and narrowly lost to Toomey in the general election, despite a Republican wave year, a sign, his supporters argue, of his political strength despite strained relations with the Democratic elite.
Sestak comes with a sterling resume – former Navy admiral, two-term Congressman, PhD from Harvard – but without the polish of a typical politician, particularly one running statewide. He kicked off his campaign with a 422-mile walk across Pennsylvania.
In such a critical race, considered one of the top Democratic opportunities to gain ground in the Senate, party officials in Washington want their top operatives involved. Sestak prefers to be surrounded by old friends and acquaintances.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Sestak trailing Toomey by 13 percentage points in the very stages of campaigning.