Republican Lisa Scheller announces congressional bid for Lehigh Valley based district

The Morning Call
By Nicole Radzievich and Laura Olson
October 14, 2019

Republican Lisa Scheller, a businesswoman and former Lehigh County commissioner, announced Monday that she will vie next year for a chance to challenge first-term Congresswoman Susan Wild, a Democrat whom Scheller described as “far too liberal” for the Lehigh Valley district.

In a speech before supporters at the Renaissance Hotel in Allentown, Scheller described herself as a “traditional Republican conservative,” and highlighted her background leading a family-owned manufacturing firm based in Tamaqua and a coffee shop aimed at helping those recovering from addiction.

She blamed the “permanent political class” for feeding division in Washington, D.C., and pledged to limit herself to four terms if she is elected.

“It’s not enough to win an election. You have to do something with the office you’ve won,” Scheller said. “That hasn’t happened here.”

Wild’s campaign did not respond Monday for comment on Scheller entering the race.

Asked after her remarks about the impeachment inquiry unfolding in Congress, Scheller criticized the process so far as lacking transparency, saying she doesn’t think Trump has gotten due process. Republicans have criticized House Democrats for not voting on a formal resolution to open an impeachment inquiry.

“People want to make this a litmus test on Trump, and I’m not going to play that game …” she said. “The president’s opponents have made this about not accepting the election of 2016, and they would love to see us go into the next election with the bill of impeachment hanging around his neck.”

Scheller, 60, of Allentown, is the second Republican to announce a bid in the 7th District, which is a top target for national Republicans.

The district includes Lehigh, Northampton and parts of Monroe counties. Much of it overlaps with the former 15th District, which had been represented for nearly 14 years by Republican Charlie Dent, who stepped down last year. Voter registration in the district leans slightly in favor of Democrats.

Wild, an attorney, won the seat last year by 10 percentage points. But both parties view the seat as one that’s likely to be competitive next year. Republicans need to win back moderate districts like this one to have a shot at regaining a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House Republicans’ campaign committee typically doesn’t endorse in primary campaigns, but its operatives meet with prospective candidates. Scheller met earlier this year with the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Lisa Scheller’s candidacy is the latest sign that PA-07 voters want no part of Susan Wild’s socialist agenda,” said NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams. “Wild’s embrace of socialized health care and her efforts to throw President Trump out of office will make her a one-term congresswoman.”

Wild largely has eschewed the controversial investigations and other hot-button topics that have boosted the profiles of other freshmen. She came out in support of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry just before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the probe, and spent much of her time on issues like education, workers rights and health care.

Dean Browning, who lost the GOP nomination for Congress last year to Marty Nothstein, also has filed paperwork to run against Wild. Other Republicans have said they are considering a run.

In a statement, Browning, 63, of South Whitehall Township, welcomed Scheller to the race, and called on her to join him in appearing at Republican groups in the district so primary voters can decide who is the better candidate to be a contrast to Wild and carry “the pro-Trump mantle in 2020.”

“We need to send Republicans to Congress who will stand strong in support of President Trump and who are committed to his America First agenda,” Browning said.

At her campaign kickoff, Scheller told how her immigrant grandfather founded a company in 1945. Her brother took over the company but unexpectedly died in 1997, and she took over. A Tamaqua native, Scheller is the president and chairman of Silberline Manufacturing, which makes aluminum pigments in Schuylkill County.

Her story turned more personal when it came to calls to fight addictions, noting that she recovered from heroin addiction as a young woman. She founded and is the chief benefactor of the new Hope & Coffee, a Tamaqua cafe designed to help others working on their own recovery.

“It was a hard struggle. It taught me that rock-bottom is a solid foundation on which to build,” she said. “It matters less who we used to be than who we are now. I also know that the person I am today, the woman who feels blessed in every aspect of her life, is a direct result of every one of those life experiences.”

Scheller declined to go into detail about her addiction while talking to media after her announcement, saying there was not enough time, and instead directing interested people to her personal story online.

Scheller also served one term on the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners, including two years as board chair.

She has been one of the largest donors to local Republican campaigns in recent years. Federal Election Commission data shows she’s also been a frequent donor to GOP candidates at the state and national level, including Republican Marty Nothstein, who lost to Wild in November, as well as Dent, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, and former presidential candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

She touched briefly on a few policy issues Monday but did not elaborate in response to questions, saying there would be opportunity to delve into the issues later.

Scheller called the spiraling costs of health care a “well-intentioned government disaster.” She criticized the Affordable Care Act, though she said she supports its provision ensuring coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

Siding with Republican-run states, the Trump administration has asked a federal court to invalidate the ACA, commonly called Obamacare.

On immigration, she eschewed career politicians for framing the debate equating borders with intolerance and recast the issue as providing a way for people to enter the country “in ways that give them full purchase to the American dream, identity and rule of law that has made this the greatest nation on earth.”

She specifically mentioned that Washington has yet to find a solution for college debt. She noted that she has created scholarships in the Lehigh Valley, most recently an endowment that paves the way for high school seniors to graduate high school with associate degrees debt-free from Lehigh-Carbon Community College.