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Congressman Joe Sestak speaks at a town hall meeting at the Hall of Flags.

The 2008 election may be over, but the members of Penn’s Students for Sestak group have found a new kind of change they can believe in.

That change comes in the form of U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who faces a tough primary race against incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) this spring.

Sestak has “more liberal views on almost all issues” than Specter, said Penn Students for Sestak coordinator and College senior Cameron Clark. “I’ve never really liked Arlen Specter, period — he’s not the strongest Democrat by any means.”

Just because Specter switched parties and became a Democrat last spring, Students for Sestak county coordinator and College sophomore Ted Koutsoubas said, doesn’t mean Democrats should see him as their only choice this spring.

“To be blunt, I decided to get involved in the campaign to support the actual Democrat in the race,” said Koutsoubas, a former Daily Pennsylvanian photo manager. “Arlen Specter is someone who’s voted against key Democratic Party principles during his 30 years in the Senate.”

But despite group members’ support for the candidate and his liberal stances on issues, they acknowledged that Sestak is in many ways this spring’s underdog.

A Franklin and Marshall poll conducted in mid-February gave Specter a 17-point advantage among Pennsylvania voters.

Clark said Sestak’s disadvantages in the race come largely from a lack of name recognition — a disadvantage the student group hopes to overcome on campus by increasing their candidate’s visibility in the coming weeks.

Penn Students for Sestak began last fall shortly after Sestak declared his candidacy. Since then, Clark said, the group has been gathering support and preparing for a post-spring break surge in campaign activity.

The group currently has over 100 members, according to Koutsoubas.

Both Clark and Koutsoubas addressed another major issue they and other student campaign groups will face this spring: Pennsylvania’s primary does not take place until May 18, the day after Penn’s Commencement ceremony.

For the majority of students who will likely not be on campus that day, Clark encouraged registering to vote by absentee ballot.

He said many of the group’s members are also involved with Penn Democrats, which will not endorse either Sestak or Specter in the primary race.

He said Penn Dems’ decision not to favor either candidate is “indicative of the Democratic party as a whole,” though he added that he thought it would be “beneficial” for both groups if they did endorse a candidate.

But according to Penn Dems President and College sophomore Emma Ellman-Golan, this lack of consensus is exactly why the group will not endorse Sestak or Specter.

“We generally endorse in races where we don’t think there’s enough attention being given to either candidate, or we want to bring more attention to the race,” she said. “But in this case, there’s no need to do that, because we have two really great student groups that have great leadership and very active members.”

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