In a recent interview, Democratic congressional candidate Phil Scollo said he is attracting support from Republicans throughout the 10th District who see his opponent, incumbent Tom Marino, as too extreme.

Marino is a "card-carrying member of the extremist end of the Republican Party," also known as the Tea Party, which is driving Republicans and independents to support him, Scollo said.

"We're getting support from Republicans all around the district, from independents - women especially - who are saying, 'I feel the Tea Party has left us no place to go. We've been disenfranchised by the Tea Party.' These are moderate people. That's where I am: a moderate person, I think," Scollo said.

"We think we have a decent chance" to beat Marino, Scollo said in a recent interview with staff of The Daily Review.

Voters in the 10th District will decide on Nov. 6 whether Marino or Scollo will be their congressman for the next two years.

Scollo, a consultant in the insurance industry, had formerly been a senior vice-president at the American International Group Inc. (AIG). Scollo said he had worked on the operations side of AIG, not the financial side.

Citing Marino's votes for Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budgets in 2011 and 2012, Scollo said that Marino has supported cuts that would hurt the residents of the 10th District.

"We're pretty proud of the fact that we've run an independent campaign. We've not relied on any funding from the Democratic Party," Scollo said, adding that he hasn't always agreed with what President Obama has done.

Scollo said his top priority, if elected, would be to improve the economy and increase jobs.

One of the ways to increase employment is to reduce government regulation on small businesses, he said.

"The Small Business Administration says that regulation is a $1.75 trillion drag on the economy. Some of it (regulation) is necessary ... but a lot of it isn't. ... We need to, for the most part, for business - small business particularly - get out of their way and let them do their thing."

While the gas industry has been a boon to the area's economy, there are unexploited opportunities for creating local jobs in other areas that should also be pursued, such as high-tech jobs and jobs serving the area's large older population, he said. It's risky to put all your eggs in one basket, which is why the area should be looking for other ways besides the natural gas industry to help the economy, he said.

"High tech is an area where we have sort of a good skill base here in Pennsylvania, and our schools do a good job in that area," Scollo said, explaining why high tech is an area that should be pursued more.

However, schools should be doing even more to provide STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) training for high school students as a way to help attract high-tech jobs to the area, he said.

And, to help address the loss of dairy farmers in the area, public schools ought to offer more opportunities for students to train for careers in agriculture, he said, adding that those programs could include apprenticeships.

Scollo said his plan for creating jobs includes other components, such as a made-in-America tax break, simplifying the tax code, investing in research and development, improving transportation infrastructure, putting people to work repairing the area's deteriorated parks and increasing the use of business internships to better prepare students to compete in the global economy.

Scollo also said his background in the insurance industry would help him further his goal of making the federal government operate more efficiently.

"There is a ton of waste in government agencies," he said.

"I have an inclination in my DNA to look at things that are wasteful and try to cut them," Scollo said, although he added that "you don't need to do it on the backs of hardworking people that have sustaining good jobs."

Scollo said that, while working in the insurance industry, he had specialized over the years "in organizational efficiency and operations. I'm sure I'll have a field day (addressing inefficiencies in the federal) budgets."

Scollo said he has some concerns about the environmental impacts of the natural gas industry.

If natural gas drilling occurs, it needs to be done and monitored "in the safest, most responsible way," Scollo said.

On the issue of abortion, Scollo said he is Catholic and that he doesn't "want to see more abortion. That being said, I don't get in the way of a woman's health choices. Those decisions are toughly made, and made between that woman, her spiritual adviser and her doctor."

Scollo is a resident of Mildred in Pike County, where he had served as chairman of the Pike County Democratic Committee. 

Scollo has worked in the insurance industry for over 30 years, managing as many as 450 people at a time, he said. This is Scollo's first time running for office.

 James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633 or reviewnews@thedailyreview.com.