Former WGAL anchor Janelle Stelson is running to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott Perry in Pennsylvania’s 10th District. (Photo via Stelson campaign)
Former WGAL-TV anchor Janelle Stelson announced this week she was launching her campaign to be the Democrats’ nominee against U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-10th District).
“For 12 years Scott Perry has been in power and he’s not done anything about a myriad of things,” Stelson said in an interview with the Capital-Star. “I’m running because for 40 years, it has been my absolute honor to be listening to and telling the stories of literally hundreds of people here in our area. But I made a big decision: It’s time to move from telling to doing.”
Stelson was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and grew up in the Seattle area. Her father was a state trooper and teacher and her mother was a receptionist at the Navy shipyard in Bremerton, Wash. She’s the oldest of four sisters, and a graduate of the University of Puget Sound. She joined WGAL in 1997 after a stint at WHTM-TV in Harrisburg.
On the issues that motivated her to run for office, Stelson said one of the biggest was Roe v. Wade being overturned in 2022.
“I was on the news set looking right into the camera, sharing with viewers that 50 years of precedent had just been overturned. And it broke my heart that women in Pennsylvania were no longer going to be safe from a national abortion ban,” Stelson said. “I just can’t even believe this is political. I mean, that, to me, has always been something between you and your doctor.”
Stelson acknowledged that she was a registered Republican before changing to Democrat on Feb. 1.
“I did as many people did way back… I registered in the party that my parents were when I started out,” Stelson said. She said since she was in a job that required her not to participate in partisan politics, she had not given much thought to how she was registered.
“And really, what matters to me is not how one is registered but how you vote. And I voted for Joe Biden, Josh Shapiro, John Fetterman, Hillary, Barack Obama. Bob Casey. And when I started seriously considering becoming a part of politics instead of covering it, I took care of business.”
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Stelson dismissed any potential comparisons between her and another television anchor about to launch a Senate campaign, Arizona’s Kari Lake, who embraced the hard-right politics of the Republican party during a run for Arizona governor in 2022. Lake has falsely claimed she was the rightful winner of the gubernatorial race, which she lost to Democrat Katie Dobbs.
“That’s the lowest common denominator,” Stelson said of the comparison to Lake. “Yes, we’ve both been on TV. And it pretty much ends there; I am not trying to be Donald Trump’s vice president.”
Perry, Stelson said, has had 12 years to improve things in the 10th District. “And I would say he’s failed at almost every juncture.” She called him “extreme,” pointing his vote to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election, and the fact he didn’t cooperate with the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol.
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.
Perry’s campaign did not reply to a request for comment from the Capital-Star. His campaign said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer that Stelson “is just one more Democrat auditioning to be Joe Biden’s running mate in the district — supporting failed Bidenomics, dangerous wide open borders, pro-China energy policies, and a radical woke agenda.”
Stelson joins a crowded field of challengers for the Democratic nomination to run against Perry. Retired Marine Mike O’Brien announced his candidacy in September, and in April, Harrisburg City Councilor Shamaine Daniels announced her second campaign to try to unseat Perry. Daniels’ primary opponent Rick Coplen also has announced he intends to run for the seat again.
Stelson said her advantage over the other Democratic candidates is that voters in the central part of the state already know her, even though she’s a political novice. Her campaign announced Friday that it had raised more than $100,000 its first 48 hours.
“I think people are hungry for somebody who will fight for them, fight to keep them safe, fight to keep them healthy, fight to keep them well educated and somebody who will fight for good paying jobs so that we can all support our families,” Stelson said. “They really don’t want some MAGA extremist who’s fighting for his radical agenda.”
She pointed to the recent showdown in Washington, D.C. over the federal budget, and the ouster of former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. “We just watched what he tried to do with the government shutdown,” Stelson said. Perry was the only member of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to vote against the last-minute deal to keep the government open. “While he’s sowing chaos in Washington, what is he doing for us here in the 10th?”
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