In this April 26, 2016, file photo, former Congressman Joe Sestak, center, his wife Susan Sestak, left, and daughter Alex Sestak react after speaking to supporters gathered outside his campaign headquarters in Media, Pa.
Photo: AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File
Photo: AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File

Who is Joe Sestak? 8 things to know about former Pennsylvania congressman, presidential hopeful

Joe Sestak, a former U.S. congressman representing Pennsylvania and retired U.S. Navy admiral, joined the crowded field of Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls Saturday.

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“What Americans want today is someone who is accountable and above self, above party, above any special interest … a president who has the depth of global experience to restore America’s leadership in the world to protect our American Dream at home … and one who is trusted to restructure policies where too many see only the growth of inequity not of the economy,” he said Saturday in an announcement on his website.

Here are eight things to know about the latest candidate to join the presidential race:

  • Sestak was born Dec. 12, 1951, in Secane, Pennsylvania. His father, Joseph A. Sestak Sr., emigrated to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in the 1920s and later joined the U.S. Navy, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2010. His mother, Kathleen, was a high school math teacher, according to the newspaper.
    Sestak was one of eight siblings, the Inquirer reported.
  • Sestak earned his bachelor’s degree in 1974 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He subsequently earned a pair of degrees from Harvard University: a master’s degree in public administration in 1980 and a Ph.D. in political economy and government in 1984.
  • Sestak joined the U.S. Navy upon his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. In his 31-year career with the Navy, Sestak rose through the ranks to become a three-star admiral. He served in the White House, Pentagon and in operational commands at sea.
  • Sestak retired from the Navy in 2005. A short while later, his daughter, Alex, was diagnosed with brain cancer, according to WPXI.
    “That little warrior … fought through brain operations, chemotherapy (and) radiation because of the health care plan that I had through the military -- that you all gave me,” Sestak told the news station in 2016.
  • Sestak said his daughter’s cancer battle inspired him to run for public office. He was elected in 2006 to represent Pennsylvania’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and reelected in 2008. The positions made Sestak the highest-ranking military officer ever elected to Congress at the time.
  • Two years later, Sestak ran for a seat in the Senate. He defeated former Sen. Arlen Specter in a primary before losing to GOP Sen. Pat Toomey that fall, according to WPXI.
    He ran for the seat again in 2016, but he lost in the primary, according to Politico.
  • Sestak married his wife, née Susan Clark, after they met as part of a visiting U.S. delegation to the former Soviet Union, according to The New York Times. He proposed two days after meeting her while was on the trip as an expert on Russia, but she declined, according to the newspaper. 
    Eight years later, they were wed.
  • Sestak said he would have joined the Democratic race for the presidential nomination sooner, but he delayed his announcement while his daughter battled brain cancer, which she has since beat.
    “Throughout this past year, Alex again showed she is stronger than me, heroically beating the single-digit odds once more, drawing on the fortitude of her mom,” Sestak said Saturday.

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