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Local News

Retired Marine Latest Challenger to Perry in PA-10

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by Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
September 6, 2023

Recently retired Marine Mike O’Brien said Wednesday he’s tired of Republicans co-opting the concept of “freedom,” and will seek the Democratic nomination to run against U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District. 

In an interview with the Capital-Star, O’Brien said he was motivated to run for office by the Jan. 6 insurrection, and Perry’s alleged role in trying to help former President Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election. He said seeing Perry object to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in the aftermath of the insurrection “and try to take away my absentee ballot in Pennsylvania, that made it personal.”

“I knew that the second I could retire from the Marine Corps and get out and make a difference, I was going to do it. That’s what Marines do, we have a bias toward action,” O’Brien said. “And with Scott Perry being the ringleader of the insurrection that attempted to overthrow our democracy, I intend to help remove him from office.”

O’Brien was a TOPGUN F-35 stealth fighter pilot, and flew combat missions in the Middle East. When he was a commanding officer, he says he prepared Marines for conflict in Asia.

A native of Elkins Park, Montgomery County, O’Brien and his wife Courtney O’Brien, also an aviator and a lieutenant colonel, both graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. O’Brien is currently living in Harrisburg, and the family is looking at houses in the Mechanicsburg area. 

Courtney O’Brien, who was born in York County and grew up in Adams County, is on active duty with the Marine Corps in San Diego, where she lives with the couple’s two children. She plans to retire next year, at which point she and the children will join O’Brien in the district. 

O’Brien, 42, called Perry a “threat to democracy,” and said he didn’t necessarily see the upcoming election as a case of Democrat versus Republican, but of American versus un-American. 

Perry, 61, who would be seeking reelection to a seventh term, did not reply to a request for comment from the Capital-Star. The beleaguered Congressman is battling with the Department of Justice over the contents of his cell phone, which he said federal investigators seized while executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last August. 

Text messages published in December 2022 showed Perry was one of several lawmakers who exchanged text messages with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The messages were turned over to the House’s Jan. 6 committee, which had subpoenaed Perry and other Republicans in May 2022. Perry declined to cooperate in the committee’s investigation.

Court orders re-evaluation of special counsel’s access to Rep. Scott Perry’s phone

O’Brien said there were several politicians he planned to model himself and his campaign after, including former U.S. Rep Conor Lamb, D-Pa., and Amy McGrath, who ran against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. Both McGrath and Lamb have military experience. 

“Conor Lamb, obviously within national service background, was able to appeal to a large segment of the population, especially over there towards Pittsburgh in a purple district,” O’Brien said. He added that he admired Gov. Josh Shapiro, “and all that he’s doing for things like infrastructure, the costs of health care and the creation of jobs. That’s somebody that I do look to.”

Asked if there were issues besides unseating Perry that he planned to focus on, O’Brien said he believes most of them come back to the idea of freedom. 

“And when I say freedom, I’m talking about things like the freedom to not have the freedom to not have to live paycheck-to-paycheck, the freedom to feel safe in our communities and schools, the freedom to make decisions about our bodies,” he said. 

“And yes, I understand [Perry] is the chair of the Freedom Caucus, but I want to challenge his view of freedom. You see how the far right has kind of co- opted the American flag. So to be colloquial about it, we’re going to start a movement to reclaim freedom, patriotism, and the American flag, in the name of democracy.”

Before he can challenge Perry, O’Brien has to beat out the other Democrats seeking the party nomination in PA-10. In April, Harrisburg City Councilor Shamaine Daniels announced her second campaign to try to unseat Perry; she lost to him in the 2022 general election. Daniels’ primary opponent Rick Coplen, also has announced he intends to run again. And WGAL news anchor Janelle Stelson is reportedly considering a run as well.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.