Earlier today, we reported on Arlen Specter's new TV ads attacking Sestak's military record and history of missed votes in Congress. At an Equal Pay Day rally Tuesday at Mellon Square Park at noon today, Sestak said that he expected the negativity.
"Arlen Specter is a disappointment," Sestak said. "After 30 years in the Senate, the only thing he can bring forward is negative advertisements. That's why Pennsylvanians want change.
"I appreciate that Arlen Secter is of a generation where campaign ads mean negativity," Sestak added. "But how about running an ad talking about the issues or coming out and telling us what you plan to do for the people of this state? That's what my ads have and will focus on. We have to keep it about the issues."
Specter's ad claims that Sestak, a three-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, was removed from a command post for creating a "poor command climate" -- an allegation made by an unnamed source in a Navy Times report. But Sestak says that's not the case. He was removed, he says, because he was an outspoken critic of the size of the Naval fleet.
Between 2001 and 2005, Sestak studied and drew up plans of how the Navy could better fight terrorism with a smaller fleet. Admiral Vern Clark told the Philadelphia Inquirer in April that it was he who assigned Sestak the task. And by taking it on, Clark said, Sestak put himself in the crosshairs of those who wanted to grow the fleet even larger.
"He did what I asked him to do; I wanted straight talk, and this put him in the crosshairs," Clark told the paper. "[H]e challenged people who did not want to be challenged. The guy is courageous, a patriot's patriot."
Says Sestak: "We had to stand up and try to change the Navy for the better. But the new head of Naval Operations" -- Mike Mullen, who is now the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff -- "came in and he didn't agree. The thing is now; the Navy is reducing the size of the fleet. You have to stand up to the establishment when you know something is not right. So now, Arlen Specter is taking these things and he's twisting them into these negative ads."
As for missing votes, Sestak says he did miss about 123 votes, and that it's a fair question for voters to ask. But he says his attendance for Congressional votes sits at 95 percent.
"I had to make a decision in July whether to get in this race even after the Democratic establishment said not to," says Sestak. "I visited 67 counties in an intense three-week perod, and I did miss some votes. I also had a situation last summer with my father on his deathbed over a four-month period and I did what any son would do: I visited him as much as I could in the hospital.
"So yes, I did miss some votes, but I'm very proud of my 95 percent voting record, and we keep our offices open seven days a week. Because of that, we are able to handle four times the number of constituency cases than the average legislator. We work real hard and people know that."