The Democratic candidate must win, Harry Perkinson told a room full of his colleagues Tuesday night.
"If we don't, Mr. Perry will be there for 25 years," Perkinson said. "We can't afford that."
A sense of urgency pulsed through Perkinson's short but blunt victory speech.
Democratic voters chose the York Township man over Harrisburg attorney Ken Lee to battle for the 4th Congressional District seat in November.
Lee, 51, said Tuesday that he was "flabbergasted" at the outpouring of support. He said he would soon return to practicing law - "something I truly love" - and he pledged his support to Perkinson in the November election.
The campaign for the general election starts immediately, Perkinson told supporters gathered at the Roosevelt Tavern.
In November, Perkinson, 60, will face state Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, who came out on top Tuesday in a field of seven Republicans. Libertarian Mike Koffenberger is also a candidate.
The winner in November will replace U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, who did not seek re-election.
Uphill battle: This is an opportunity, Perkinson said, "to send a Democrat to Congress for the first time since 1967."
But, he acknowledged, it will be an uphill battle in the red-tinted district that spans York, Adams and Cumberland counties. It's a fact not lost on his supporters.
At a York City polling place earlier Tuesday, Marta Peck, 64, said she voted for Perkinson on the advice of a friend.
But, she added, she's holding out little hope he'll defeat the Republican nominee in November.
"It's a real uphill battle to be a Democrat running for Congress in this district," Peck said.
Strategy: Perkinson said his strategy is three-fold.
First, make sure every Democrat comes out to vote. Then, woo the independents. And, finally, peel off as many moderate Republicans as possible to the other side.
Perkinson, an engineer, called himself a moderate who has "an entirely different attitude toward women" than his conservative opponent. For example, Perkinson said, he supports abortion rights.
Asked why voters might choose a Democrat over a Republican now, Perkinson referenced the old adage that one cannot continue doing the same thing and expect different results.
"It's critical that we change the direction the country is going in," he said.
Perkinson said he would be an ally of President Barack Obama, who he said has struggled against a Republican agenda to limit him to one term. In office, Perkinson said he would prioritize job creation and debt reduction.
Voters should want to elect representatives who believe government can work, he said.
"It can be smart, efficient and responsive," he said.
- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ydcity.