U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak

is only half-done with his exploratory tour of Pennsylvania's 67 counties but he's talking like he already has decided to challenge

Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.)

next year.

"There's a principle involved," the ex-admiral who represents Delaware County and the Main Line told me. "There should be a choice for Pennsylvania," not just for Specter, who Sestak says ditched the GOP and joined the Democrats for mere "political calculation."

Specter's a famous fund-raiser. He has Gov. Rendell on his side. Still, Sestak has a war chest, a leftover $3 million he didn't spend on TV ads in his last run.

Second-term Sestak still runs on his pre-Washington resumé. Where is he on the big issues? With President Obama, more or less. The stimulus, Sestak says, is working, slowly but on schedule. He wants loan relief for broke borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth. He backs "systemic risk" regulation of insurers and derivatives.

Sestak wants rich wage earners to pay stiffer Social Security taxes on their pay. But he's also for "small business stimulus," maybe as tax relief.

He wishes President Bush's treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, had been able to go through with his plan to buy banks' bad loans. He regrets the government's decision to let Lehman Bros. fail, which he says panicked the markets and forced direct government bailouts.

That's the difference between Sestak and his would-be replacement, investor Steven Welch, who has been approaching GOP leaders about running for Sestak's seat.

Welch would have let Lehman die. "We're no longer letting companies fail," he complains. "The government owns the largest bank, the largest insurance company, and the largest auto company." Citi, AIG, GM deserved to fall, he believes. "Innovation creates jobs," says Welch. "Not government spending."

Welch founded Mitos Group, built it into an $8 million (sales per year) biotech development business, and sold it to Parker Hannifin in 2007, when biotech firms were going for a few times sales.

"We need people who have never been in government," Welch told me. "These bills they're passing in Washington have a traumatic effect on business."

"He's making the rounds. I find him an attractive candidate," says Wally Nunn, the former Delaware County council chairman.

No day job

Mount Airy developer

Ken Weinstein

, partner in

PhillyOfficeRetail.com

, says oldest son

Ari,

a 15-year-old

Germantown Friends

student off at college computer camp, "is getting job offers from Israel and all over the place," after the

Wall Street Journal

put Ari on the front page this week.

Ari Weinstein writes code for www.ijailbreak.com, which helps Apple iPhone users download non-Apple software. He's been electronically precocious since he was a toddler excited by light switches, dad says.

Young Ari's maybe a little bored at his computer camp, but he's not going pro anytime soon, Ken adds, leaving his Trolley Car Diner to negotiate the sale of four empty stores on Chew Avenue.

So hacking's not paying the Weinsteins' bills. "I get to retire," Ken says, "when all the vacant properties in Philadelphia are occupied."

Step right up

Lenny Dykstra writes his fans, the day after the Phillies slugger-turned-stock-options pitchman and publisher filed for bankruptcy: "I expect to emerge from Chapter 11 protection and continue to achieve my business goals."

He still claims a perfect record as an investment-picker: "Perhaps if I had invested in my own picks, instead of entering into business with parties who sought to destroy me, things might be different."

He is philosophical: "Through God's grace and the mercy of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, thankfully, this is not a life sentence."

And he ends by equating himself with well-known past bankrupts who went on to greater things: Thomas Jefferson, Donald Trump, and P.T. Barnum, who is supposed to have coined the pitchmen's motto: "There's a sucker born every minute.

Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at (215)854-5194 or JoeD@phillynews.com