Joe Sestak, latest 2020 candidate, says it's not too late for him to gain traction

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

Sestak joins 2020 race as 25th candidate

There are 24 other Democrats competing for the chance to take on President Trump and thwart his reelection in 2020. But Joe Sestak, a former three-star U.S. Navy admiral and two-term Pennsylvania congressman, thinks he can still gain some traction among voters as he enters the crowded race.

He told CBSN on Monday this steadfast belief is rooted in a deeply personal story.

Asked why he was throwing his hit in the ring at a relatively late stage, Sestak, who announced his long-shot campaign for president this week, said he was inspired to launch a bid for the White House by his daughter's remarkable battle with cancer. He said she beat brain cancer twice, mostly recently last year.

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"She beat the odds a second time, which is 8%," Sestak said from Des Moines, Iowa. "And so you're kind of dealt the hand of cards you're given in life."

"Yeah, I'm a little late but as I told someone else, she also gave me a sign a long time ago that said, 'Life's not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about being out there dancing in the rain.'" he added. "And yeah, it's a challenge. But I think this is an important one. And I'm bringing certain things to the primary."

Sestak is betting that his 31-year tenure in the Navy will appeal to Democratic voters and allow him to distinguish himself from others in the race, which is currently being dominated by high-profile candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

On the foreign policy front, the former Pennsylvania congresswoman vowed to reverse the Trump administration's current approach towards Iran, which he suggested is placing the two countries on the brink of war. On Thursday, the president ordered the U.S. military to conduct a limited strike against Iran to retaliate for the downing of a Navy surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf region, but then called off the operation just an hour before it was to begin.

For Sestak, the escalating tensions between the U.S. and the Iranian government are the predictable outcomes of the administration's foreign policy decisions.

"America broke its word when he withdrew us from an accord with Iran where they kept theirs," he said, referring to the president and his decision to scrap the 2015 nuclear agreement the Obama government brokered with Tehran and other major world powers.

Sestak said robust diplomatic engagement is the only way to permanently solve decades of geopolitical enmity. "Militaries might stop a problem, but they don't fix a problem," he said.

First published on June 24, 2019 / 3:28 PM

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