Pennsylvania Primary: 6 Democrats Battle to Challenge Scott Perry in General Election

Beth Brelje
By Beth Brelje
April 17, 2024Congress
Pennsylvania Primary: 6 Democrats Battle to Challenge Scott Perry in General Election
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) talks to reporters in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington on Oct. 11, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Democrats have been chasing straight-talking incumbent Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA-10) for years. Now, six candidates are vying for the top spot on the ticket in the November general election, each believing they have the best chance to unseat him. Mr. Perry is unchallenged on the Republican side. However, he faces criticism from local, left-leaning media outlets that often publish negative editorials about him.

District 10 includes Pennsylvania’s capital city, Harrisburg; racially diverse York; the small town of Millersburg, home to the historic Millersburg Ferry on the Susquehanna River; and Hershey, a major tourism town where the streetlamps are shaped like chocolate kisses.

Here is a look at the candidates in the primary race. All campaign finance numbers below are from the most recent filing period, ending April 3.

Rep. Scott Perry, Republican


Total Receipts: $2 million
Cash on hand: $513,000

Mr. Perry was first elected to Congress in 2013. Before that, he served three terms as a Pennsylvania State Representative.

He served in the Army from 1980 to 2019. As a lieutenant colonel, he commanded the 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, which deployed to Iraq in 2009-2010, during which he flew 44 combat missions. In 2011, he was promoted to the rank of colonel and became commander of the Fort Indiantown Gap National Training Site. At the United States Army War College, he earned a master’s degree in strategic studies, and in 2014, Mr. Perry was promoted to brigadier general, serving as the assistant division commander of the 28th Infantry Division.

He currently serves on the U.S. House committees on transportation and infrastructure; foreign affairs; and oversight and accountability. He is also chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

He applauds the U.S. Supreme Court decision to ensure states can make decisions regarding abortion.

“The right to life is given by God. Any law should include exceptions for rape, incest, and the precious life of the mother,” Mr. Perry said in a recent statement. “I’ll continue to support people seeking to start or grow families through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and adoption. The radical Left demands absolutely no limit on how or when pre-born babies can be aborted and who pays for it. It’s reprehensible, and it’s time for the States to fight for mothers, babies, and growing families.”

Mr. Perry opposes excessive taxes and over-regulation, which prevents small businesses from creating jobs, Mr. Perry said on his website. He believes lowering taxes will strengthen the economy.

The Affordable Care Act failed to reduce healthcare costs. Mr. Perry said everyone should be able to find affordable health insurance. He plans to repeal the act and replace it with a system that covers pre-existing conditions, reduces the cost of prescription drugs, and allows individuals and their doctors to make healthcare decisions.

He wants to protect Social Security and Medicare; protect the Second Amendment; protect unborn life; and get the national debt under control.

“The lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle threatens our economic stability and the long-term growth of our economy. We must stop spending money we don’t have,” Mr. Perry said. “I’ve supported many efforts to responsibly reduce spending, balance the federal budget and make government more accountable to hard-working American taxpayers.”

The candidates vying for the top Democrat spot attacked Mr. Perry for communicating with the White House during the events of Jan. 6, 2020.

“The 2020 election, and the aftermath, was debated two years ago, and the Congressman won by a larger margin in 2022 than he did in 2020,” Matt Beynon, a campaign spokesman told The Epoch Times. “If Democrats want to continue debating it, that is their choice, but it’s a proven loser issue for them.” He added that Mr. Perry was one of the few members of the Pennsylvania delegation who attended President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Mike O’Brien, Democrat

Total Receipts: $736,000
Cash on hand: $165,000

Mike O’Brien retired from the military in August 2023 as a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. He spent 20 years as an F-35 Stealth Fighter pilot, completed two combat deployments, is a graduate of the Naval Academy, and has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I am staunchly pro-union as I believe unions are critical to a stable paycheck, job, and life,” Mr. O’Brien’s campaign website reads, and he does have the support of some unions.

He is interested in health care costs and his solution is to hold “big insurance companies accountable to provide high quality care and fairly priced prescription drugs.” He believes the infrastructure to “combat the climate crisis” will create an explosion of new jobs.

Mr. O’Brien wants to reevaluate access to weapons for those without the capacity to safely handle them due to mental health issues. The government, he says, should not make decisions for families related to abortion, birth control, and miscarriage treatment.

Attacks against Mr. Perry are peppered throughout his campaign website.

“Congressman Scott Perry and his far-right gang of insurrectionists are a threat to democracy and a threat to our freedoms,” Mr. O’Brien said on social media.

Janelle Stelson, Democrat

Total Receipts: $577,000
Cash on hand: $192,000

Janelle Stelson is a former local Pennsylvania television news anchor. She left the news anchor chair in September and will jump directly from covering Mr. Perry in the news to challenging him if she prevails in the primary.

“I have lived and worked in Central Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years. It has been my honor to tell the stories of thousands of people. But there’s one story that’s getting harder to ignore, because it keeps getting worse: Our Congressman, Scott Perry,” Ms. Stelson said in a video announcing her campaign.

She said she cannot stand by and watch Mr. Perry “sow chaos, preach extremism, and spout conspiracy theories.”

Ms. Stelson says she will stand for worker’s rights, abortion rights, and civil rights. She calls on Republicans who believe in funding the police, including the FBI, to support her.

“Perry is the most extreme, MAGA member of Congress, who could actually lose,” she said in her video. Ms. Stelson’s campaign website offers insight into what some journalists are thinking while they deliver news to the public.

“When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I had to look into the TV camera and tell women that for the first time in 50 years, our reproductive rights are no longer protected under federal law,” the website reads. “But Congressman Scott Perry thinks politicians like him should be able to tell you when, where and how to start a family. It’s why he supports banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest. He even supports a law that would ban IVF.”

If elected, she vows to vote to ensure that those who serve our country in the Armed Forces receive the benefits they have earned. Ms. Stelson says she will be a “champion for our educators and the youngsters who, literally, are our future,” by making sure “teachers, meal servers and bus drivers have the pay and respect they deserve.”

Ms. Stelson earned a politics and government degree from the University of Puget Sound and previously wrote speeches at the Embassy of Egypt in Washington.

Rick Coplen, Democrat

Total Receipts: $89,000
Cash on hand: $5,000

Rick Coplen is a parachute combat veteran, teacher, and school board member. He attended West Point and served in the Army and later taught economics, business ethics, strategic leadership, and international relations to cadets at West Point, adult learners at Elizabethtown College, and senior leaders at the U.S. Army War College.

He and his wife run Rendezvous Run Farm, where they train sport horses.

Like the other candidates, Mr. Coplen uses his campaign website as a place to talk about Mr. Perry and claims that those who follow him are extremists.

“Perry, Trump, and their fellow extremists threaten the safety of not just themselves but all public officials, from election workers to public librarians,” the website reads. “Perry, Trump, and their fellow extremists were quick to object to the peaceful protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd. By objecting to peace and not to violence, Perry shows his true colors and makes us all less safe.”

On abortion, Mr. Coplen says millions of women have “lost control over their own bodies thanks to the extreme conservative Republicans who have turned the Supreme Court into the Extreme Court.” He warns that Republicans have their eyes set on banning contraceptives. It is unknown where that opinion comes from.

If elected, Mr. Coplen says he will take every opportunity in Congress to ensure the rights of LGBT people are never compromised.

“Why do extreme conservative Republicans always need someone to hate?” Mr. Coplen asks on his website. “In my lifetime, I’ve been told by some that I have to hate African-Americans, Jews, feminists, immigrants … people with disabilities … and now people whose sexuality isn’t as rigid as the minds of MAGA Republicans.” He said is thankful that he does not hate any of these people.

On other issues, he says climate change is real, and it will not solve itself. He also supports a $15 minimum wage and reducing the prison population.

Blake Lynch, Democrat

Total Receipts: $84,000
Cash on hand: $4,000

Blake Lynch previously worked as the director of development at the Boys and Girls Club of Harrisburg, then served as the first director of community relations for the Harrisburg Bureau of Police, and formerly worked at the local PBS station, WITF, which has both television and radio broadcast outlets.

In 2021, WITF announced Mr. Lynch had been hired as senior vice president and chief impact officer, tasked with overseeing community engagement, fundraising, corporate sponsorship, and marketing. He left that position in October last year and has been on the campaign trail since then.

Mr. Lynch is a board member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation better known as the PASSHE Foundation, which works to obtain and disburse public and private funds for use by the PASSHE board of governors for smaller Pennsylvania state universities.

His agenda items include lowering everyday costs like a gallon of gas or milk and bringing better jobs to the region.

Mr. Lynch said he would reduce income inequality, make it easier to start a small business, and train workers with the skills needed for modern industry.

He advocates for more police training and evidence-based policies to solve gun violence. For the environment, he would advance policies that “hold the largest polluters accountable,” encourage renewable energy solutions, and reduce the reliance on foreign oil, Mr. Blake’s campaign website reads.

He would make the right to abortion a federally protected constitutional right.

“While Scott Perry was advocating to overturn the election and decertify valid Pennsylvania votes Blake was working side-by-side with officers at the Harrisburg Bureau of Police,” his website says. “We deserve a Congressman who sustains our Democracy—not threatens it.” If elected, he promises safe, secure elections where all eligible Pennsylvanians have access to the polls.

Shamaine Daniels, Democrat

Total Receipts: $73,000
Cash on hand: $7,900

Harrisburg City Council member Shamaine Daniels, an immigration attorney, previously ran for Congress and was the Democrat primary winner in 2022. She went up against Mr. Perry but lost by 24,000 votes.

Ms. Daniels’ family moved to the United States from Venezuela when she was 13. She is endorsed by CASA In Action and the Latino Victory Fund. Although immigration is her life story and her life’s work, it is not listed as a main issue on her campaign website.

Her issues are jobs and the economy; infrastructure; healthcare; education; Social Security and Medicare; energy and the environment; support for veterans; and support for the agricultural community.

The last issue, “support for the agricultural community,” however, does involve immigration.

“Many family farms rely on seasonal workers to have a stable and reliable workforce,” Ms. Daniels said on her website. “Calls for mass deportation and the failure of our leaders in Washington to enact meaningful immigration reform threaten the agricultural community, and we must take action to implement meaningful immigration reforms that give family farms the stability they need.” However, she does not describe what reforms she would favor.

For the economy, she would expand credit to help small businesses grow and prioritize policies that encourage manufacturing, construction, and production of American goods. She would strengthen, not repeal the Affordable Care Act to bring competitiveness to the insurance market, and she would allow Americans over 50 to buy into Medicare.

Ms. Daniels would address abortion by preventing unplanned pregnancies. She suggests providing teens with sex education and access to contraceptives. “Women’s health is also about valuing the lives of women,” Ms. Daniels said. “We need to ensure that women have the time to heal after delivering their children, and that those who care for them are sufficiently trained and resourced.”

John Broadhurst, Democrat

Total Receipts: $22,000
Cash on hand: $67

John Broadhurst was one of 11 children. While working as a truck driver, he attended Villanova University. Today he is the director of B21 Capital, an international consulting and business development firm.

After college, he lived in France for several years and worked for a small consulting company in New York state. Mr. Broadhurst said during an interview on Pennsylvania Cable Network that he lived in Beijing, China, for 12 years, working as a partner in a small firm that did television syndication production for well-known cable channels like ESPN, the Discovery Channel, and The Weather Channel.

Recently, he has been consulting in the United States, planning marketing campaigns to launch new products; however, he is currently campaigning full-time.

Mr. Broadhurst is concerned about climate change and says that trade partners like India and China, which need access to the U.S. market, should be required to meet more stringent CO2 emissions regulations as a condition of access.

“One of the criticisms that many people raise, and rightly so, is that China’s the largest emitter of co2, and so if China is not making a special effort to reduce co2 emissions, why should we? I would like to flip the narrative and say that China should,” Mr. Broadhurst said.

He aims to lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies for the cost of drugs. Mr. Broadhurst also said that he wants to protect democracy.

“Jan. 6 was the 911 [sic] of American Democracy, a deadly insurrection to overturn a free and fair election. This was a violent assault on the foundational principle of self-government, majority rule,” Mr. Broadhurst stated on his campaign website. “The right to vote is the most fundamental right in a democracy but, for many Americans, this vote is under constant threat. To tolerate any form of voter suppression is to tolerate the continued erosion of Democracy.”

From The Epoch Times

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