Sestak takes long-shot White House journey one step at a time

  • Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak resumed his walk across New Hampshire from outside Post and Beam Brewing on Wednesday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak resumed his walk across New Hampshire from outside Post and Beam Brewing on Wednesday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak resumed his walk across New Hampshire from outside Post and Beam Brewing on Wednesday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak resumed his walk across New Hampshire from outside Post and Beam Brewing on Wednesday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Retired three-star Vice Admiral Joe Sestak spoke at the New Hamshire Democratic Party Headquarters this week.

For the Monitor
Published: 10/18/2019 4:11:25 PM
Modified: 10/18/2019 4:11:12 PM

When you’re a presidential candidate with little name recognition and even less campaign cash, you have to think out of the box.

And that’s exactly what Joe Sestak’s doing as he faces an extremely long, uphill climb to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

The retired three-star U.S. Navy admiral and former two-term congressman from Pennsylvania – who in June became the second to last Democratic candidate to jump into the 2020 White House race - has been far from the spotlight as he runs a very bare-bones campaign.

But Sestak hopes his week-long walk across the width of New Hampshire – from the Vermont border to the Atlantic Ocean – will make him more visible with voters in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House.

“This is an independent-minded state, the Granite State. It’s wide open according to some. And I find that as I go around,” Sestak told the Monitor on Friday. “I just need to get in front of them physically and on the air, and that’s why we’re doing the walk and that’s why the ad’s up,”

The ad he refers to is a commercial that’s running on local broadcast and cable TV during his trek.

Sestak says he’s “stopping everywhere to meet with people” and calls his journey “a great learning experience.”

As he makes stops in roadside cafes or restaurants – to “go in for a coffee and chat with somebody” – he notes that “to a person, they’re glad when I sit down and just go in…The response is fantastic. I’m not just saying that.”

This isn’t the first time Sestak’s taken a hike as he runs for office. He trekked across Pennsylvania in 2014 during his second unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.

He explained that he took the idea from the Pulitzer prize-winning decades-old book “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“We used to read it to our daughter. And there Atticus says to his daughter Scout, who repeats it in the book, ‘you can’t know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them,’” he said paraphrasing the book.

Sestak’s long-shot bid is grabbing local coverage but not much national attention. He optimistically noted it doesn’t get frustrating “because I really do believe that there’s a decent chance.”

Sestak has been walking at a healthy pace, saying on average he treks 3.5 to 3.7 miles per hour. A car with a support staffer or two – who tweet and post video of the trip along the way - is always within a mile or two of the candidate.

It’s not your traditional march. Sestak often jumps into the support vehicle to attend an event or make a campaign stop or two before heading back to the spot where he departed his trip, so he can resume his journey. And each evening he returns to a home in Hollis, where he stays with friends.

Sestak ends his trip Sunday along the harbor in the coastal city of Portsmouth.

“I’m going to talk about national security as I stand right there, on the harbor that looks east,” he noted. “That’s where I sailed across to combat in a ship and I’m going to talk about how we really do need today someone who understands – with breadth and depth of global experience – how this world needs to be led by America.”

Sestak shared that “it doesn’t get lonely” on his walk. He explained that it gives him a lot of time to think.

But he said he can’t get too distracted with the weight of the world’s problem while walking on some Granite State roads.

“You get in some pretty narrow roadways there with heavy trucks going by,” he said. “No sidewalks.”




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