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Former U.S. Representative and one of the many Democratic nominees for president, Joe Sestak speaks to an audience at Chestnut Hill College on September 23. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News. 
Former U.S. Representative and one of the many Democratic nominees for president, Joe Sestak speaks to an audience at Chestnut Hill College on September 23. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News. 

Joe Sestak promises accountability in Washington as he runs for president

The former U.S. representative from Delaware County took a detour from campaigning in Iowa to visit Chestnut Hill College on September 23.

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Former U.S. representative and three-star Navy admiral Joe Sestak was a late entrance into the crowded Democratic field vying for the party’s nomination for president. But the delay was for a reason that is at the core of why he has decided to run. 

Alexandra, Sestak’s 18-year-old daughter, was diagnosed with brain cancer just before his planned presidential campaign announcement. For Alex — as he calls her — it is the second time she’s faced the diagnosis. The first came when she was an infant.

Sestak recounted the first time to an audience of students, faculty and the public during a visit Chestnut Hill College on September 23. He was visiting as the first speaker in the college’s “Campaign 2020 from the Hill to the House” speaker series. 

As an infant, Alex was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer that only appears in children. Sestak remembers the doctors telling him and his wife that she only had 90 days to live and an eight percent chance of survival.

Thankfully, Alex did survive, but Sestak doesn’t think it would have happened had he not been in the military. 

“Because of the healthcare plan provided to military families, she was able to beat that demon,” said Sestak.

During the re-occurrence, Sestak battled his insurance company over the $300,000 price tag for a necessary chemotherapy drug to save Alex’s life.

Both experiences inform one of his campaign goals, which is to restore the Affordable Care Act and move towards a single-payer health system.  

Obamacare is just one of the mortal enemies of the Trump administration, and so far, it’s had mixed results in repealing. It’s a move Sestak says falls in line with the vast lack of accountability present in Washington at the moment.

And accountability sits at the center of Sestak’s presidential message as something he promised to bring back if elected.

“This nation needs someone that the people will trust once again because they believe he will be accountable to them, to people, above party, above self, above any special interest no matter the cost,” said Sestak.

The theme of health is prevalent throughout Sestak’s campaign, whether it be healthcare, or environmental and economic health. 

In regards to climate change, Sestak says it is one of the foremost threats to humankind and supports the Green New Deal proposed by U.S. representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey.

But he said the U.S. can do more to influence global initiatives combating climate change. 

“Even if we pass the Green New Deal here at home it won’t matter because 85% of that damage comes from abroad,” said Sestak. 

His plans once in office are to rejoin the Paris Accord — which the Trump administration announced its plans to leave in June 2017 — to put the U.S. back in a leadership position regarding climate change.

As for the economic health of the country, Sestak touched upon student loan debt — for the college audience — and the lack of vocational training as some of his campaigns focuses.

“How about those plummers? Those electricians? How about those machinists? Sixty-five percent of Americans don’t have a college degree,” said Sestak.

For student loan debt, he was honest with his reservations to forgive all of it, but promised to work towards plans that subsidized community college education and considered income and employment status before requiring loan payback.

Sestak hasn’t seen a debate stage in this primary cycle, but what he’s missed out on nationally, he’s hoping to make up for in what he’s built locally in Iowa.

“I’ve logged some 17,000 miles and shook 30,000 hands,” he said.

Adversity of this kind is nothing new for 67-year old. When he first ran for a House seat in Delaware County, it was unheard of for a Democrat to even sniff success in the red district. But thanks to his community-based, face-to-face approach, Sestak won, and then got reelected.

This approach led to probably his biggest promise of the day: to hold a presidential town hall for the public on his first day in office.

First, he has to see if the approach works in Iowa on February 3, 2020.

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