Democrat George Scott seeks 10th District seat with help from national party

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
U.S. congressional candidate George Scott poses at his headquarters in Harrisburg on Friday, August 24, 2018. He is attempting to oust incumbent Rep. Scott Perry in the 10th District. Bill Kalina photo

Democrat George Scott checks all the boxes for an anti-corporation grassroots campaign in 2018, and the national party is throwing resources behind him with hopes to put him in the 10th District U.S. House seat in November.

The soft-spoken candidate running for the seat, currently held by three-term Republican incumbent Rep. Scott Perry, was raised on a farm outside Littlestown, Adams County. 

Although he found a love for politics early in life and majored in international politics at Georgetown University, upon graduating he spent 20 years serving as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, putting politics on the back burner.

Scott retired as a lieutenant colonel with a long military resume, including deployment for both Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, and he promptly shifted his service to a local church.

U.S. congressional candidate George Scott poses with campaign lawn signs at his headquarters in Harrisburg on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. He is attempting to oust incumbent Rep. Scott Perry in the 10th District. Bill Kalina photo

In 2009, Scott entered the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, and now he serves as a pastor for Trinity Lutheran Church in East Berlin, Adams County. 

Both his religious and military service "have a common theme of service and resonate with the people of the district," he said.

The theme of service, paired with his reaction to the 2016 elections, brought Scott back to the political scene in hopes of helping to fix the current "broken" political system that is embodied by Congress, he said. 

"By watching how the 2016 elections unfolded and how that played out at the national and local level, I saw a lot of people who had strong existing relationships being fractured," he said. "It was a divisive race, and I saw the effects in both my community and my congregation."

National party support: The national party is throwing its support behind his renewed political interests, too.

Last month, Scott was named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue list," a "highly competitive and battle-tested program at the DCCC that arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns," the website states.

The DCCC has existed since 1866 and acts as "the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives," according to the website.

U.S. congressional candidate George Scott poses with campaign lawn signs at his headquarters in Harrisburg on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. He is attempting to oust incumbent Rep. Scott Perry in the 10th District. Bill Kalina photo

The committee touts a long list of supported candidates — all of whom receive campaign resources — and has gathered more than 2 million individual donations to elect such candidates since its inception.

With this help from top U.S. House Democrats, Scott hopes to win a historically red district that earlier this year went through some big changes.

Redistricting: Scott is the first Democrat to dip his toes into the new 10th District, which now comprises northern York County, part of Cumberland County and all of Dauphin County.

The new district was formed in February after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the state's congressional map because of alleged partisan gerrymandering favoring the state's Republican party.

More:States’ redistricting plans facing challenges in court

The district seat currently held by Perry was previously the 4th District and included all of York and Adams counties as well as parts of Dauphin and Cumberland counties.

The new map, widely criticized by Republicans and praised by Democrats, offers hope to new candidates like Scott.

With the new map, Scott said, "This is a completely winnable race. Not only can we win, but I believe we will win."

Campaign breakdown: Scott's campaign is what has become the norm for many Democratic candidates across the nation, including Democrat Jess King, who is running for the state's 11th District — which the redistricting pushed west into southern York County.

More:EDITORIAL: Jess King's grass-roots Congressional run offers a refreshing change of pace

The grassroots approach utilizes hundreds of volunteers, refuses corporate donations and focuses on issues ranging from single-payer health care to reducing student debt.  

Scott also touts supporting investment in the country's school systems; creating better-paying jobs and finding skilled workers to fill those jobs; and the implementation of "common sense gun laws" — rhetoric that drew criticism and praise alike for the war veteran.

Scott added that one of the most important aspects of his platform is infrastructure investment, which he said "is often talked about but not prioritized."

"If you put a dollar into infrastructure, that creates another $3 to $5 in economic activity," he said. "Not just physical infrastructure, but also digital infrastructure like broadband access to every home. This is what we need in Pennsylvania."

Although both 10th District candidates have experience in the U.S. Army — Perry was promoted to brigadier general in 2014 and previously was deployed to Iraq — the biggest difference between Scott and Perry is "compassion," Scott said.

The self-described "true blue Democrat" said he attributed the quality to his experience as a pastor.

"This campaign is first and foremost about the people," Scott said. "My name may be on the sign, but in the end this is about the people of the 10th District."

Campaign finances: The Scott campaign has proved to have impressed the national Democratic party, but Perry has taken the edge in financing.

Since April 2017, Scott has raised $358,230 — 86.4 percent of which was from individual donations — with $207,618 cash on hand, according to U.S. Federal Election Commission statistics.

Perry has raised nearly double his opponent, with $641,443 — 53 percent of which were individual donations, the rest coming from political action committees — with $553,739 cash on hand. 

Despite a lighter wallet, Scott had an exponential boost in individual donations this most recent quarter and outraised Perry $279,748 to $232,430.

Scott has also spent just half of what Perry has since April, dropping $150,612 into his campaign while Perry has spent $302,609.

Meeting the voters: Money is important to the campaign, Scott said, but so is engaging voters — something he does through "house parties" rather than town hall meetings.

During the events, interested voters sponsor a campaign "party" at their home, which gives them a "more intimate opportunity" to speak with the candidate, he said.

The campaign has held 60 such events as of Aug. 27 and plans to hold another 60 before the November elections, he added.

"In those meetings, which usually have between 25 and 50 people, folks get to meet me one-on-one, and then they have the chance to ask where I stand on a variety of issues," Scott said. "There's nothing more powerful than person-to-person contact."

However, Scott plans to continue to release television ads and go door-to-door with volunteers on the campaign, followed by at least four town hall meetings annually if elected.

As a result of a hard-fought campaign and engaging with voters, he said, Democrats have a strong chance of taking control of the House in November.

"I think we have an excellent chance to flip the House, but we can't just assume it's going to happen," Scott said. "We have to work hard, and if we do, we're going to see victory in places where it's expected as well as places in this district where maybe it isn't expected."