ANALYSIS: With eye on Pa.'s 10th District, Democrat DePasquale charts center course
Seeking to unseat a four-term GOP congressman in traditionally red territory, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is distancing himself from some of the more progressive policies being embraced by others in his Democratic Party.
That's a smart move, according to one central Pennsylvania political analyst.
"If you're running in urban America today, it's a no-brainer to stay with the progressive agenda," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.
"The problem is once you get outside that geography and demographic," he added.
A day after announcing a run for Rep. Scott Perry's 10th District seat, DePasquale said Monday, July 1, that he would not push for policies espoused by the left wing of the party, such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
Many registered Democrats in the state hold more centrist views, Madonna said. Progressive reforms espoused by some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates won't work on a smaller scale in a district like the 10th District, he added.
Those reforms include Medicare for All, which would expand the federal Medicare program to more than just the 65-year-old minimum to ensure affordable health care access for all Americans.
The Green New Deal, another hot-topic policy championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, is a climate plan that aims to cut greenhouse emissions in half by 2030 using a variety of energy-reform measures.
At a Monday morning meeting with media at Astoria Diner in West Manchester Township, DePasquale said he appreciated such ambitious ideas. But they aren't the most effective way to get things done, he added.
Instead, the Democrat said he would address climate change by fighting for legislation similar to what Pennsylvania signed into law in 2008, known as The Alternative Energy Investment Act, which provides grants and loans for clean and alternative energy projects such as wind and solar power.
He would also push for a Medicare buy-in program or automatic enrollment in Medicaid for those who can't afford health care, which would allow those who like their private insurance to keep it while providing "nearly universal" coverage and lower costs.
DePasquale also touched on immigration, a defining factor of President Donald Trump's tenure in office. He acknowledged a need for a physical border but said he would focus on allocating more resources for border guards, especially at ports of entry. He said he wants to ensure the humane treatment of those in detention.
Perry, a Carroll Township native and House Freedom Caucus member, did not respond to a request for comment, but his campaign released a statement Monday:
“Eugene DePasquale is the hand-picked candidate of Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats who want to move America towards socialism and destroy access to quality healthcare, increase taxes through the roof on working class families and cost us thousands of jobs right here in Pennsylvania."
The response came a day after the state Republican Party also challenged DePasquale.
The party accused the Democrat of using taxpayer dollars to campaign under the guise of advertising audits. It has also said he is using the House run as a launching pad for a higher office.
DePasquale on Monday addressed both claims, saying he has just been doing his job as auditor general and intends to focus on the House seat.
"Being in Congress would be one of the highest honors of my life, so I'm just focused on running for Congress," he said.
The Democrat's campaign kickoff Sunday came after former Democratic candidate George Scott announced he would not challenge Perry for a second time. Last year, he came within three percentage points of Perry.
In February 2018, the state Supreme Court imposed new congressional district lines to address Republican-favored gerrymandering. The 10th District now includes northern York County, part of Cumberland County and all of Dauphin County. Scott won Dauphin County, the largest portion of the district, with 54% of the vote.
Observers have noted DePasquale has a high profile in the state because of statewide visits to tout audits, giving him significant name recognition. He also has powerful connections within the Democratic Party. Both could boost fundraising efforts.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not endorsed DePasquale, but on Monday it announced an ad run on Facebook targeting Perry's record and controversial comments he's made in office.
The first ad to launch will address comments Perry made in December amid a looming government shutdown, when he seemed to dismiss claims that federal workers were living paycheck-to-paycheck.
“Congressman Perry now knows that he’s facing the toughest election of his life, but we’re going to make sure he can’t run away from his record in Washington of contributing to extreme partisan gridlock and voting to back a special interest agenda,” said DCCC spokesman Mike Gwin in a news release.
“From shutting down the government, to voting for higher health care costs for working families and an age tax on seniors, Scott Perry has turned his back on Pennsylvania’s middle-class," Gwin added.
If elected, DePasquale said, his priorities would be education, veterans affairs, climate change and constituent services.
"I have the right experience, and the time is now to try to shake up Washington," he said, adding that Perry's response last year to the looming 35-day government shutdown was a large driver in his decision to run.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.