HARRISBURG — Scott Perry has won his conservative district by no fewer than 25 percentage points on his way to three terms in Congress, but a sweeping redraw of Pennsylvania’s House district boundaries has forced several Republican congressmen into newly competitive seats, Perry as much as anyone.
Now, Perry — a member of the Freedom Caucus, a particularly conservative group of House Republicans — is battling for his political life in conservative central Pennsylvania, and the state has emerged as a keystone for Democrats aiming to recapture a House majority.
George Scott, the Democrat challenging Perry, is a first-time candidate and Lutheran pastor who, like Perry, served with the Army in Iraq. Democrats like Scott’s chances enough that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is dropping $260,000 into the race to attack Perry on TV.
On Saturday, Scott greeted canvassers at a suburban Harrisburg gathering where people buzzed about a poll showing a neck-and-neck race, then sped off for a pancake breakfast and a booth at a pumpkin festival.
“This is how we’re going to win, through days like today and through people like you,” Scott told canvassers.
January’s ruling by the state Supreme Court’s Democratic majority threw out 6-year-old district maps drawn and approved by Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican governor, saying they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
It tore up decades of precedent in how districts were drawn in a bid to elect as many Republicans as possible, and it succeeded. Republicans won 13 of 18 congressional seats on that map in three straight elections in a state where Democrats hold a registration advantage and won 18 of 24 statewide elections during that period.
After Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature’s Republican majorities didn’t agree on a replacement map, Democrats on the court imposed one . The new map repackages elongated and bent districts and reunifies Democrat-heavy cities that had been split by Republican map drawers.