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Poll: Quarter of voters unfamiliar with congressional challenger DePasquale

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale holds his first campaign event in York at Crispus Attucks, Tuesday, January 21, 2020. DePasquale is running as a democratic challenger to Congressman Scott Perry.
John A. Pavoncello photo

A quarter of voters in the state's 10th Congressional District are unfamiliar with Democratic challenger Eugene DePasquale, according to a poll released by a railroad union Wednesday.

The findings that suggest DePasquale, the state's auditor general, has a name-recognition problem came days after his congressional campaign launched its first district-wide advertising blitz. The poll was conducted in early August, before the ads were released.

DePasquale was in a statistical tie with U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, according to the poll commissioned by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. And 24% of respondents "never heard of" him, suggesting that DePasquale has work to do to raise his profile.

Meanwhile, just 7% of respondents were unfamiliar with Perry, R-Carroll Township. 

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"The (auditor general) profile is not as substantial statewide because it's not like governor, and it's not like a U.S. senator," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

"It's obvious that he's got to get out and broaden his name recognition, but there's still plenty of time to do that."

Other factors may be that it wasn't until recently that DePasquale began to air television ads, and the COVID-19 pandemic has also dominated the news cycle, Madonna said.

The poll's findings confirmed previous name recognition issues evident within an internal poll released in July by DePasquale's campaign.

While 80% reported being familiar with Perry in that poll, just 63% reported being familiar with DePasquale. The internal poll, conducted by Washington-based research firm GBAO, also showed the two men in a statistical tie.

Wednesday's poll showed DePasquale with a 2-point lead but contained a 5% margin of error. Last month's poll had Perry with a 3-point lead with a 4% margin of error.

"As voters in our district get to know more about Eugene and his record of fighting for working families, we are confident this lead will only continue to grow," said DePasquale campaign spokesperson Kunal Atit.

DePasquale's campaign argues that the fact the race is so close, even while a quarter of voters are unfamiliar with their candidate, is actually bad news for Perry. 

Congressman Scott Perry speaks during a town hall at Hummelstown Fire Department in Dauphin County Tuesday, July 30, 2019. It was the first in-person town hall by Perry in over two years. Bill Kalina photo

The new numbers come as the DePasquale campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ramp up attacks on Perry's record in office.

"This poll shows just how unpopular Congressman Perry has become after voting against lowering prescription drug costs, working to repeal protections for preexisting conditions and exploding the deficit to give billion dollar tax breaks to corporations that bankroll his political career," Atit said.

The DCCC and DePasquale have also attacked Perry for his alleged silence on President Donald Trump's recent executive order that included a payroll tax holiday. The holiday, critics say, would hamstring programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Matt Beynon, a campaign spokesperson for Perry, declined to comment on the poll.

But he did address the DePasquale campaign's attacks regarding social safety nets, saying the allegations are a deflection. DePasquale faces allegations of campaign finance violation accusations, and Perry's campaign has labeled him "a corrupt career politician."

"Senior citizens know Scott Perry is committed to protecting their Social Security and Medicare benefits, and he has been recognized as a ‘guardian’ of seniors rights by the 60-Plus Association," Beynon said.

The Federal Election complaint in question, filed earlier this month, alleges DePasquale used state committee campaign funds to bolster his early congressional campaign, which is prohibited by the Federal Election Commission.

The 10th Congressional District race is expected to be highly competitive. Both The Cook Political Report and Politico have  listed the race as a toss-up.

In 2018, Perry defeated Democratic challenger George Scott by less than 3 percentage points.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.