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Scott Perry faces Democratic challenger

Democrats plot to beat Scott Perry in Pennsylvania

House Democrats are lining up behind Janelle Stelson to take on former House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) in November.

But first Stelson has to defeat roughly half a dozen other Democrats vying for the nomination on Tuesday. Her main challenger is Mike O’Brien, a retired Marine officer who has a fundraising advantage.

Stelson, a former TV news anchor in central Pennsylvania, said she wants to woo moderate Republicans who are turned off by Perry’s ultra-conservatism.

“I loved my job as a journalist. It took a lot for me to want to leave that job,” Stelson told us. “But after seeing how bad Scott Perry is on almost every issue, I’ve had Republicans coming up to me left and right saying, ‘You take him down, girl.’”

O’Brien, meanwhile, is running on his military experience. He’s also highlighting Perry’s efforts to contest the 2020 election.

“[Perry] is really not dedicated to not only democracy, but he doesn’t represent the people in the district,” O’Brien told us.

This is the first cycle Democrats really see Pennsylvania’s 10th District as a viable pickup, despite targeting Perry previously. The district currently leans R+4.

Democrats are hoping to capitalize on what they consider a favorable political climate while taking advantage of Perry’s fundraising vulnerabilities. Perry has a little more than $500,000 cash on hand. But Perry has also been plagued by hefty legal fees related to his lawsuit against the federal government.

Congressional support: Stelson has the strongest congressional backing so far. She is endorsed by the New Democrat Coalition’s campaign arm and has received donations from Reps. Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) hosted a delegation breakfast for her, although he hasn’t formally endorsed anyone in the primary.

“She seems to be in it for the right reasons and she seems to be a hard worker and a viable candidate,” Cartwright said of Stelson.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), who has met Stelson, is closely watching this race.

“There’s an opportunity,” Dean told us. “With choice on the ballot, with disinformation and lies on the ballot, we have a really good chance to get more Democrats.”

O’Brien has the backing of Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and former Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb.

Perry’s response: Perry has improved his margins of victory in every general election since 2018.

“You always have to work hard to earn it. I always do,” Perry said. “[Democrats] target me every single time and every single time, they tell everybody that this is the end because they’re going to win. But they don’t seem to be right so far, so I don’t know why I would start listening to them now.”

Several of Perry’s colleagues in the Freedom Caucus also said they would help him out financially if needed.

“I will help Scott in any way,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told us.

Reps. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) and Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.) — three HFC freshmen who came up under Perry’s leadership — said they’d do whatever they could to keep him in office.

— Mica Soellner

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