Democrats running to challenge Perry in PA-10 face off in debate • Pennsylvania Capital-Star

The six candidates seeking the Democratic Party nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-York) for Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District agreed on a wide range of issues during a debate on Wednesday, with some areas of disagreement including residency in the district, the war in Gaza, and a proposed assault weapons ban. 

The debate, hosted by ABC27 and moderated by news anchor Dennis Owens covered a variety of questions relating to domestic and international affairs, but began by asking individualized questions about “qualifications and electability.”

Residency questions take center stage

Where they live was a key question for several of the candidates, as it has been so far in the campaign.

Mike O’Brien, a recently retired Marine, has lived in the district for less than a year and replied to criticism he had “parachuted in” to run for the seat.

“As Marines were taught to put ourselves at the point of friction,” O’Brien said. “The point of friction was over there back then. And it’s here right now, because we have a representative right here in the 10th district that doesn’t care about you.”

Janelle Stelson, a former longtime anchor at WGAL-TV, lives in Lancaster County, which is just outside of the district. 

On residency, Stelson said she moved to the area in 1986 and has had four homes in Dauphin County, arguing she knows the district and its residents. 

“I know this area better than anybody else up here,” Stelson said. “I would match my knowledge with Scott Perry or anybody else, and more importantly in terms of electability this area knows me because I’ve been listening for nearly 40 years and telling their stories.”

Stelson also reiterated her reply to questions about her recent registration switch from Republican to Democrat. She was a registered Republican because her parents were and “then had a job for roughly the past 40 years that required me to be absolutely non-partisan,” she said.

In response to a follow up question from Owens, Stelson said she would move to the district if she wins the primary.

Businessman John Broadhurst also recently moved to this area to run for the seat. He was asked why should voters support “such an outsider.” 

“I’m campaigning on a pretty original platform and that is I am trying to address causes and not simply deal with consequences,” Broadhurst said. “In order to defeat a representative of MAGA, we have to identify and address the causes. And in my view these causes are extreme economic inequality, it is the 20 years of failed militarism, and it’s a lack of political accountability.”

Shamaine Daniels, a Harrisburg City Councilwoman, was the Democratic Party nominee against Perry in 2022 but lost by 24,000 votes. She was asked why should Democrats trust that she can beat Perry in 2024.

“Although I lost in 2022 I’ve been the Democratic nominee who has performed the best of any previous nominee,” Daniels said. “And my experience and connections to the district are just something to build on.” Nearly 150,000 people have already voted for her, Daniels noted, citing the 2022 results.

Rick Coplen, an Army veteran and Carlisle School Board member, sought and lost the Democratic Party nomination for the 10th Congressional District in 2020 and 2022. He was asked why this time will be different. 

“I’m the only one on the stage that has won as a Democrat in a Republican district,” Coplen said, a reference to winning a seat on the Carlisle School Board. Coplen added that he believes he has more “experience, expertise, and empathy” to the race than any other Democrat, while recalling a story talking to people in Allison Hill who said that Perry doesn’t listen or care about them.

Blake Lynch, a former WITF executive, is the youngest candidate in the race. He was asked how he’d respond to concerns from voters that he’s too young and too inexperienced.

“I actually have more experience in the corporate suite and in the community than anyone here on the stage,” Lynch said. “I’m the only person that’s a lifelong resident of the 10th congressional district.”

Prior to working as the senior vice president of WITF Public Media, Lynch was the Director of Community Relations for the Harrisburg Bureau of Police. He also highlighted his work with the Boys and Girls Club.

The Issues

The candidates were largely in agreement on a wide range of domestic issues; all agreed they would protect Social Security and Medicare for future generations, advocate for education funding, and support raising the current minimum wage.

During a rapid fire round addressing the topic of abortion rights, every candidate raised their hand when asked if they support a “woman’s right to choose with no exceptions.” 

Every candidate also raised their hand when they asked if they would support a federal law that would legalize adult use cannabis.

However, the candidates were divided over whether they support a ceasefire in Gaza and what America’s role should be in that conflict. 

Stelson and O’Brien said they support a ceasefire in exchange for the return of the Israeli hostages, with O’Brien adding that he thinks it’s a “time for diplomacy.”

Broadhurst and Lynch, who have vocally supported a ceasefire for months, reiterated their messages on Wednesday evening. 

Coplen said he supports an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.” Daniels said she supports a ceasefire and that the U.S. should be a good ally to Israel.

When Owens asked the candidates to provide a show of hands if they supported the Biden administration’s handling of the war in Gaza, O’Brien was the only one to raise his hand, saying he thought the president was “holding [Israel] to account,” and was putting “the right amount of pressure on the Netanyahu government.”

There were also some disagreements among the candidates on whether they would vote for an assault weapons ban, which President Joe Biden has called for. Broadhurst, Coplen, Daniels, and Stelson raised their hand in support of such a ban, while Lynch and O’Brien said they would not. 

Perry, a former U.S. House Freedom Caucus chair, is currently serving his sixth term in Congress. He’s running unopposed for the Republican Party nomination. 

The 10th Congressional district includes all of Dauphin County and parts of Cumberland and York Counties. 

The Pennsylvania primary election is April 23.

Originally published at,by John Cole

Comments are closed.