Rep. Scott Perry’s town hall: Video and recap

  • Ed Mahon/Spotlight PA

(Hummelstown) — A midstate congressman is expected to be a top target for national Democrats in 2020.

Republican Scott Perry faced a mixed reaction from voters at a Tuesday evening town hall meeting — the first in-person town hall he’s hosted in more than two years. 

Tickets for the event in Dauphin County ran out quickly.

About an hour before it began, a few dozen people from progressive Indivisible groups gathered outside the Hummelstown Fire Department. They wanted Perry to let more people inside.

Inside, Perry’s staff set up seats for about 100 audience members. When the event started a few dozen of those seats were empty — although some later filled up. 

 

It was a divided crowd. A few times, audience members shouted and accused Perry of lying. 

Perry resisted calls to condemn President Donald Trump for racist tweets about minority members of Congress. He said he’s seen things he doesn’t like on both sides of the aisle.

“There are things that I don’t let my children watch on TV, because I’m embarrassed by it. I’m just going to tell you that,” Perry said. “But we all have a vote. This is America. We all have a vote. You all have your opinions. You don’t need me to tell you what to think about all this stuff.”

At the town hall, Perry also defended his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage. Asked if he could support a family on the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour, Perry said he couldn’t. “I doubt anybody can,” he said.

But he said raising the minimum wage would hurt low-skill workers and lead to employers replacing those jobs with machines.

“It doesn’t seem like the business of the federal government to determine what people across the country are going to pay,” Perry said.

Perry resisted multiple calls to support increased gun restrictions. One questioner mentioned Sunday’s mass shooting in California. 

Two audience members brought up a murder-suicide in Cumberland County last year. That prompted an emotional and extended back-and-forth.

“She was trying to get away, and he put bullets in her,” said Nathan Shields, who works in marketing for a retirement community.

“It’s horrific,” Perry said. “I’m not condoning that, sir. I’m not condoning that. I agree it’s horrific.”

But he also referred to the Second Amendment and said lawmakers can’t pick and choose which rights to support and defend in the Constitution. 

“We live in an imperfect world, and we try and do the best we can under the confines we have,” Perry said, later adding, “We can’t pre-conceive what people might do in the future. We cannot.”

Carolyn Wolf, a 55-year-old Republican who works in a medical office, pointed to Perry’s comments about Second Amendment as one of the things she liked most about his town hall.

“I really liked the way that he said that you have to be careful of restricting constitutional rights,” she said. “Because, it might sound good as an idea, but in practice it would … do more harm than it helps.”

Perry represents the 10th District, which includes all of Dauphin County, plus parts of York and Cumberland counties. He previously represented a more solidly Republican area, but when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew congressional districts last year, Perry found himself in a much more competitive district.

In 2018, Perry defeated Democrat George Scott, a pastor and Army veteran, by less than 3 percentage points.

Shields, one of the voters who mentioned the Cumberland County murder-suicide, is hoping Perry loses in 2020. 

“The district is not red. It is increasingly purple and is turning blue,” Shields said.

Eugene DePasquale, a York County Democrat who was twice elected to statewide office as auditor general, has announced plans to challenge Perry in 2020. Attorney Tom Brier is also seeking the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, Perry faces a challenge from Bobby Jeffries, a logistics director for a health and wellness firm.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it launched a targeted digital ad buy against Perry.

Perry is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers that has frequently challenged its own party’s leadership. In November 2018, The Hill reported that Perry was one of three Republican lawmakers vying to become the next chairman of the group.

 

Perry’s office live-streamed the event, in two parts, on Perry’s Facebook page:

 

Here are highlights from live coverage of the event:

 

 

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