Could Daniels have ousted Perry with more support from Democratic leadership?

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

The 2022 election proved much better for Pennsylvania Democrats than even party leaders had figured, with key victories in the races for governor and U.S. Senate — and a chance to take control of the state House.

But one question remains: Could Shamaine Daniels have ousted incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry with more support from party leadership?

Daniels believes so.

"The gap of votes was about 25,000 votes," she said. "I believe those would have been surmountable if I had more resources and more time."

Daniels, a 43-year-old immigration lawyer and Harrisburg City Council member, was a relative latecomer to the congressional race. She stepped up to challenge Perry this spring after the presumed Democratic frontrunner, former state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, ruled out a second consecutive run against Perry.

From that point on, Daniels never caught up to Perry in terms of fundraising.

Daniels had just $96,000 on hand and had spent $260,000, according to her most recent Federal Election Commission filing. Perry, in contrast, spent $2.1 million and retained $80,000.

Outside spending on the race was similarly lopsided, according to Open Secrets, a nonprofit organization that tracks political spending. Perry got over $627,000 in outside spending supporting his campaign with just over $12,000 opposing him. In contrast, Daniels received just over $15,000 supporting her campaign; the opposition spent over $230,000 on opposing her.

More:York County wades into lengthy election hand count: 'Seeing ballots in my sleep'

More:Student struck while trying to board school bus dies

More:York House Hospice offered sanctuary in worst days of AIDS epidemic

Daniels said her biggest challenge was name recognition. Her base of support came from Harrisburg — and she received more votes than Perry in Dauphin County, according to unofficial results — but she trailed the incumbent in Cumberland and York counties.

"I feel I did everything I could with what I had," she said.

Shamaine Daniels, Congressional candidate in PA's 10th Districts, speaking at the rally for John Fetterman in York on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

According to unofficial results, Perry won reelection against Daniels by a 25,000 vote margin. For comparison, DePasquale trailed Perry by 26,000 votes in 2020, while George Scott, a Lutheran pastor and veteran, lost by less than 8,000 votes in 2018.

Chad Baker, chair of the York County Democrats, said he believes Daniels could've won the race with more money and, of course, time.

"If you're thinking about running for Congress, a lot of times you're thinking about running two years out. You're thinking about what it's going to take to fundraise, to build your base," Baker said. "It wasn't really until June that she was able to start building her campaign and her structure."

More:Scott Perry, in the center of a Jan. 6 storm, insists he's a simple man

More:From immigrant to U.S. Congress? Shamaine Daniels' challenge to Scott Perry

When Daniels won the May primary, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a two-sentence statement of support but didn't add the race to the organization's "Red-to-Blue" list of high-priority races, which many donors use to decide which races to funnel their dollars into.

Daniels said she might have stood a better chance come November had her campaign received more support from the party establishment earlier in the campaign. However, she stopped short of criticizing the DCCC.

The DCCC did not respond to a request for comment.

Its chair, Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, lost his 2022 election, and the group has received criticism from Democrats for not doing enough to assist candidates.

“I’m really, deeply disappointed in the DCCC,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa told the Texas Tribune, following news that the caucus would not put ads on air to assist Michelle Vallejo. “I hope they change their mind, and if we lose this election, it’s completely on them.”

Vallejo ultimately lost to Republican nominee Monica De La Cruz.

U.S. Congressman Scott Perry speaks during the York County Republicans watch party at Wisehaven Event Center in Windsor Township, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

After the election, Maloney engaged in a war of words with New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, criticizing the fellow Democrat in The New York Times for not contributing more to 2022 efforts.

Ocasio-Cortez took to social media, noting that she campaigned on behalf of several Democratic candidates, including California U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, who is poised to win reelection, according to unofficial results. She called on party leaders like Maloney to "take some ownership" for rejecting the help of the progressive wing.

Political analyst G. Terry Madonna isn't so sure. He noted that campaigns always second-guess the results.

"It's always what if," Madonna said, "but it's a distinct possibility."

Chris Borick, a Muhlenberg College professor of political science, said it would have taken a true "blue wave" to unseat Perry. There's no guarantee more money would've elected Daniels, he said, but it would have forced Republicans to throw even more resources behind Perry.

"It's kind of the gaming strategy," he said. "If they're investing a lot there, they're not investing it in other places, and that helps Dems."

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.  

According to Borick, the promising results of November's race could make the 10th Congressional District a prime target for Democrats in 2024.

Daniels said she would consider another run, but noted that the circumstances behind this run were unique. Since she had just recently had her child, she already had time off from her day job that she could commit to the campaign.

"I'm really grateful to the residents of the district who came out to support me and volunteer," she said. "This was really heavily volunteer driven, and if people didn't dedicate their time to this campaign we wouldn't have performed as well as we did."

Regardless, Perry is moving on.

“The People’s voice is heard in their vote," he said in a news release. "I was elected to represent all south central Pennsylvanians, and I will continue to honor that duty in Washington.”

This article was updated to correct information about outside spending in the 10th Congressional district race.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.