Democrats Believe They Can Pack the Freedom Caucus Chair

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Lt Col. Mike O’Brien, a Marine Corps fighter pilot, cast an absentee ballot in Montgomery County, a suburb of Philadelphia, for the 2020 election.

A few weeks later, on January 6, O’Brien covered the news as rioters in MAGA hats and confederate flags stormed the US Capitol and Republican lawmakers contested the results of the 2020 presidential election.

O’Brien watched to see who contested the vote—his vote—in his home state.

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“And that was Scott Perry. That was the Republican delegation. And so at that point, it became personal for me, and I wanted to do something about it,” O’Brien said.

That “something” is campaigning to unseat the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus chairman, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA). And the retired TOPGUN F-35 stealth fighter pilot—the aviators made famous by the Tom Cruise “Top Gun” movies—is opening fire on Perry’s role in trying to steal the 2020 election. O’Brien doesn’t take his time.

After 20 years in the Marine Corps, he retired in September, and five days later, he began his campaign against Perry. The native of Philadelphia even relocated to Perry’s district in Dauphin County, south central Pennsylvania, partly in order to take on the incumbent.

“It became very evident to me that we had to take that into consideration in order to challenge Scott Perry head-on, since he was one of the insurgents who spearheaded the attempt to overthrow our democracy,” O’Brien stated.

O’Brien is one of seven Democrats running to succeed Perry, who believes they can finally unseat the congressman with six terms. Because they believe that Perry’s support of the “Big Lie” and hardline politics will be rejected by voters in Perry’s district, Democrats are confident they have a genuine chance of unseating the notorious Trump ally this cycle.

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“I think this district is primed to be extremely competitive, given his attempts to steal the 2020 presidential election and his extreme positions on important issues like abortion,” Pennsylvania Democratic strategist Mike Mikus said to The Daily Beast.

Perry was reportedly a major player in the scheme to rig the 2020 presidential election results, linking former President Donald Trump with DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who supported Trump’s election denialism. Perry is currently the leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus.

Perry’s phone was taken by the FBI in August 2022 using a court-authorized search warrant as part of an investigation into attempts to rig the election; however, the FBI has been unable to access the phone due to legal challenges.

But politically, “it’s never a good thing with voters when the FBI seizes your cell phone,” as Mikus stated to the Daily Beast.

Perry’s Pennsylvania district, which includes portions of Cumberland and York counties in addition to Dauphin County, the location of the state capital Harrisburg, is being targeted by Democratic opponents who hope to capitalise on this sentiment.

Perry appears vulnerable, according to recent polling, even though the district has a R+5 Partisan Voting Index score—which is essentially a measure of how many more percentage points a district leans Republican or Democrat.

According to a poll conducted in October by Public Policy Polling, Perry’s approval rating in the district is just 34%, and his lead over a “generic Democratic candidate” is only two points.

The district was redrew in 2018 and went for Trump by a four-point margin in 2020. However, it supported Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro, over the far-right candidate, Doug Mastriano, by a margin of roughly twelve points last year.

Dems Think They Can Send the Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry Packing

Democrats cite yet another clue that the region is shifting to the blue. This month, Democrats won a majority on the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners for the first time in the county’s history. A few school board contests have also tended Democratic, notably those in York County, a conservative area.

In the Democratic primary, Janelle Stelson, a former broadcast journalist covering the entire district for NBC affiliate WGAL, seems to be leading the field. Because of her years as a local anchor, she has a strong name recognition. According to an October PPP poll, she is in first place with 33 percent of voters, 13 points ahead of her closest rival.

Stelson is also resentful of Perry for sabotaging Pennsylvania’s electoral prospects.

She told The Daily Beast, “It’s inconceivable that people would want to keep voting for someone who essentially threw away their ballots.”

Democratic strategist J.J. Abbott, based in Harrisburg, told The Daily Beast that Perry’s participation in January 6 provides Democrats with a useful diversion from informing voters about Perry’s other extreme stances, such as his strict stance on abortion.

“I think the January 6 stuff just sort of provides a proof point for that, that is particularly persuasive with a lot of voters that the Democrat will need to win,” Abbott said. “Perry is so extreme on every issue.”

Perry is especially vulnerable to Democratic criticism because of his abortion record. Democrats are feeling more electorate nationally as a result of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and Perry’s strong anti-abortion stance will be a target. Perry, for instance, most recently supported a move to prevent the military from paying for military personnel to travel in order to get an abortion.

When Stelson reported on the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion in June 2022, she said that it broke her heart to tell “every woman that their rights had been rolled back 50 years” in front of the camera.

She remarked, “And you know, Scott Perry wants to outlaw abortion nationwide.”

After more than 20 years in journalism, Stelson said she thought it was time to “move from the telling to

the doing something about it” following her more than 20-year career in journalism.

Perry is being unseated by “something,” just like O’Brien.

“I’m focusing my energy there right now because Scott Perry poses a threat to democracy,” she declared.

The October poll has Shamaine Daniels trailing Stelson at 20 percent. Daniels faced Perry last year and lost by roughly eight points. Last year, Perry significantly outdid Daniels, a member of the Harrisburg City Council, contributing $3 million compared to Daniels’ pitiful $400,000.

O’Brien, Rick Coplen of the Carlisle School Board, and Blake Lynch—who most recently held the positions of senior vice president and chief impact officer at the public media outlet in central Pennsylvania—come in at three percent each in the survey.

O’Brien has demonstrated strong initial fundraising results. In September, his first month as a candidate, he raised more than $15,000. Since entering the contest on October 4, Stelson has not yet filed his campaign finance report with the FEC. However, in her first 48 hours of the race, she raised $100,000, according to her campaign website.

As of his most recent FEC filing, Perry had over $500,000 in cash on hand. If conservative groups perceived danger, they would probably spend heavily outside of his campaign.

Perry’s campaign spokesperson, Matt Beynon, stated that the congressman has focused on opposing the Biden administration, which has left his constituents “struggling to make ends meet, feeling unsafe walking their own streets, and being embarrassed and ashamed of Biden’s failures on the international stage,” while Democrats scramble to challenge Perry.

“Congressman Perry remains laser-focused on reversing and stopping the damage caused by this administration’s failed agenda, while the radical Left is bringing in liberal candidates to run for Joe Biden’s running mate in south central Pennsylvania through the 10th Congressional District,” Beyon said in a statement.

Naturally, Pennsylvania’s anti-Trump Republicans aren’t buying that line of thinking and have thrown their support into the effort to remove Perry. Craig Snyder, a veteran Pennsylvania Republican operative, is leading the “Republicans Against Perry” campaign, which is being sponsored by the centrist Democratic Welcome PAC.

Snyder stated to The Daily Beast, “We think he can be replaced, and we think he deserves to be replaced.”

Snyder thought a centrist Democrat could unseat Perry. Snyder spearheaded the GOPers For Shapiro campaign that was successful the previous year.

The organisation is tracking down “persuadable” voters in the district and educating them against Perry. Republicans Against Perry may provide an endorsement as the race develops, but they have not endorsed a Democratic primary contender. Republicans Against Perry plans to assist the Democratic candidate’s campaign in the general election if it is determined by the campaign that they can compete.

(Beyonon claimed the group is “out of town, out of touch, and out of luck,” much like the Democrats challenging Congressman Perry.)

Both Perry’s Republican opponents and his Democratic rivals concur; the chairman of the Freedom Caucus fits the mould as their anti-abortion, election-denying boogeyman for 2024. Their desire is to turn this contest into a contest to unseat a sitting duck whose political views, they claim, diverge from those of the electorate in the swing district.

“I will state that voters in PA-10 have a single issue,” O’Brien remarked. And while we have discussed a number of topics, there is just one that needs to be addressed: Who can defeat Scott Perry?

 

 


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