Cleveland-area pastor Darrell Scott huddling with Trump insiders as he ponders congressional run

November 14, 2017

Cleveland-area pastor Darrell Scott huddling with Trump insiders as he ponders congressional run

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland-area pastor Darrell Scott says he continues to meet with members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle as lays the groundwork for a possible primary challenge of Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce.

Scott said he met with Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, in Washington, D.C. for two hours last week to discuss what it would take to assemble a campaign to challenge Joyce. The two discussed fundraising, campaign staffing and other political fundamentals, Scott said in a Monday interview.

“He was telling me different things it would take if I chose to run, and that he will support me if I choose to do it,” Scott said.

A planned meeting with Trump adviser Steve Bannon didn’t materialize last week, but Scott said Bannon has encouraged him to run.

“I don’t know how much of his engagement is going to be with other congressional candidates, but I’m pretty confident of his assistance to me,” he said.

Scott also said he discussed his plans last week with Donald Trump Jr. during his most recent trip to Washington. He expressed confidence that if he were to enter the race, he would have no trouble raising money — thanks in part to his Trump-related political connections — and getting the support of Trump’s political operation.

“They’re family. They look at me as family and I look at them as family,” Scott said. “If I talked to Don Jr...They’re all aware of Dave Joyce’s opposition to the president. Do you understand what I’m saying? They’re all aware of Dave Joyce’s opposition to the president, and as a result, if we get a candidate, if a Trump guy comes and if it happens to be me, I have no doubt I’ll have their support. Everything I hear is positive.”

In a statement, Joyce spokesman Dino DeSanto said: “There is nobody in Congress who supports the president’s agenda to build a wall, fix bad trade deals and reform our broken tax code more than Dave Joyce. This has been a welcomed and supported message to stand up for working-class people throughout Northeast Ohio.”

Former State Rep. Matt Lynch, who lost to Joyce in 2014 and 2016, also has said he will challenge Joyce again in Ohio’s 16th Congressional District next year.

Who is Scott?

Scott, 58, is a co-pastor at the non-denominational New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights along with his wife, Belinda. He lives in Solon, and splits his time these days between his church responsibilities in Northeast Ohio and Washington, D.C., where he said he is working on a “major urban initiative” for the White House.

Scott’s rise to prominence has coincided with Trump’s political ascension within the Republican Party. Scott spoke at last July’s Republican National Convention, and hosted Trump at his church in a September campaign appearance.

Scott has never run for office before, and although he is socially conservative, he voted in the 2006 Democratic primary, state election records show, and has said he voted for Barack Obama for president. He is the CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, a group of racial and religious minority Trump supporters.

Why is Scott thinking about running?

He said his interest began when Ashtabula County Republican Party Charlie Frye, whom he met during the presidential campaign, called him and pitched the idea. Ashtabula County is part of the 16th District, and was an stronghold of crossover Trump support last year.

“I said, ‘wait a minute, come on Charlie. Thanks but no thanks,’” he said.

But as time went on, Scott said he began to think that he could do more to promote Trump’s agenda if he were in Congress. He cited Joyce’s opposition to Trump’s health care bill earlier this year, as well as comments Joyce made to a local newspaper earlier this year criticizing Trump’s tweeting habits.

“I’d tell the president to put the phone down, go golfing and stay out of there. Let Pence run the show,” Joyce said in a July interview with Gatehouse Media editors in Kent.

Scott also told cleveland.com Congress could use more black Republican representation.

Scott said he has received pressure — without naming names — from Joyce supporters to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, of Cleveland, instead. He said he got offended.

“I said, wait a minute, first of all, I live in Dave Joyce’s district. That’s where I’ve lived for a long time. Out of all the Congress people in Ohio... why would you pick the one black lady, and tell the black guy to go run against the black lady?”

But Scott also said he will not emphasize “identity politics” if he were to campaign in the overwhelmingly white district.

“To be honest, I don’t see color when I talk to them,” he said.

Who else in Trump World has Scott checked in with?

On Monday, Scott checked off other figures in TrumpWorld with whom he said he’s discussed his plans — Vice President Mike Pence, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, top White house aide Kellyanne Conway, David Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, longtime Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

“I’ve talked to all of them. I’ve yet to talk to the president, but I’m going to talk to him. I put in a call to his secretary, and told her I need to get on the calendar,” Scott said.

When will Scott make up his mind?

Scott said he plans to make his decision next month.

“I’m still doing my research,” he said. “The Bible talks about before you endeavor to build a building, you need to count the costs. So I’m still counting the costs.”