EDITORIAL: Rev. George Scott deserves credit for giving local voters a real choice
The Rev. George Scott knows the odds are stacked heavily against him.
He’s running as a Democrat in a conservative congressional district where Republicans hold a 4-3 voter registration edge.
He’s hoping to win a seat that's been locked up tightly by the GOP since the late 1960s.
And he’s looking to upset an incumbent who captured more than 66 percent of the vote in 2016.
Scott freely admits he’s facing an “uphill battle” to win Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District.
Still, he’s elected to fight those political headwinds and throw his hat into the ring.
He should be applauded for that. A democracy works best when there is a real choice between opposing candidates.
Scott knows that beating U.S. Rep. Scott Perry will be difficult, maybe impossible. That’s likely why he’s getting an early start. The general election for Perry’s seat is still 15 months away.
Scott will need every one of the days between now and Election Day to introduce himself to the voters in the 4th Congressional District.
Impressive background: The Dillsburg pastor is largely unknown in these parts, but he does boast an impressive background that could make him a more formidable foe than past Democratic challengers for Perry's seat. His life story also contradicts several stereotypes about Democratic candidates.
First, he’s a man of faith. Democrats are often labeled by their conservative rivals as secular humanists, agnostics or atheists, with little or no interest in religion or a greater power.
Second, he’s a military veteran, serving 20 years on active duty with the U.S. Army, including multiple deployments during five years overseas. He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel. Again, many on the right view Democrats as less than friendly to the military and those who serve.
Those two attributes alone should make Scott more popular in these parts than your average Democratic candidate.
A major challenge: An abiding faith and a record of service, however, will not be enough to get Scott elected.
He’s facing an opponent who is also a military man and also a man of faith. Perry also proudly wears his conservative credentials, which typically play very well in his right-leaning district.
Perry, as the incumbent, is also much better known than Scott and will almost certainly have more money to spend in his campaign war chest.
There’s also no guarantee that Scott will even face Perry in the general election. There’s a chance that other Democratic candidates could emerge to challenge Scott in the primary election. In fact, we should all hope that more candidates will enter the race, on both the Republican and Democratic ballots.
Scott’s early entry may encourage others to join the race. That’s good. The more choices the better.
Hard work, not words, will be key: Scott, to his credit, said all the right things when he announced his candidacy on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
“We need leaders that are going to put solutions over rhetoric and principles over partisanship,” Scott said.
Talk, however, is always cheap. Scott’s only chance to win the seat is by wearing out his shoe leather and pressing the flesh. He must go door to door to introduce himself personally to the voters.
Even that kind of diligent work may not be — in fact, probably won’t be — enough.
Scott will likely attack Perry for his strong support of Donald Trump, our controversial president, whose national favorability ratings are historically low.
Trump, however, easily carried the 4th Congressional District in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. If the election were held again today, even with his sagging favorability numbers, Trump would again likely win the district easily.
Scott has also openly acknowledged that he was inspired by former President Barack Obama, who called on frustrated citizens to run for office. Saying anything nice about Obama in this neck of the woods usually isn't a winning sentiment.
That’s just the nature of political life in southcentral Pennsylvania.
Scott knows that, and still he’s elected to run.
Win or lose, he deserves credit for offering the voters of the 4th Congressional District a true choice.