With big black gauges, a black hoodie and two sleeve tattoos, Scott Grimes doesn’t look like…With big black gauges, a black hoodie and two sleeve tattoos, Scott Grimes doesn’t look like the kind of guy who runs for Congress.
Nevertheless, Grimes, a Pitt senior communication and rhetoric major, will be running as a write-in candidate for the congressional seat of Pennsylvania’s 14th district on Nov. 6.
Grimes is not on the ballot and has spent $250 on his campaign so far. He is going up against incumbent Mike Doyle, who has held the seat for 18 years and who defeated the Republican challenger in 2010 with a landslide 68 percent of the vote. Grimes knows he won’t win and has said as much, but he won’t drop out either.
“I’m in it till the end,” Grimes said. “As a write-in candidate, I’m here ‘til election day.”
Even though Grimes will be the first to tell you he can’t win, he says he stays in the race because he hopes it will inspire others to stand up for what they believe in and question their leaders.
Grimes’ political campaign began last February, inspired by — and as a reaction to — the Occupy Pittsburgh movement, in which dissatisfied citizens camped out Downtown in Mellon Green last year to protest economic inequality.
“It shows that you’re frustrated, to camp outside in a park for 100 or 120 days — however long they were there. But camping outside isn’t fixing anything,” Grimes said. “They only way to fix anything is get people in power who want to bring about the change that you seek.”
So Grimes took the last spring semester off to begin his campaign for U.S. Congress.
At first, Grimes tried to get on the ballot as an independent candidate, and he set out to get the 1,961 signatures he would need to get his name onto ballots in Pennsylvania’s 14th. After personally collecting about 1,200 signatures, Grimes decided his time could be better spent elsewhere.
“I started realizing that hitting the streets wasn’t spreading the message as well as focusing my energies towards tweeting and maybe having a tweet go viral or something I said on Facebook go viral,” Grimes said.
Since then, Grimes has run his campaign mostly over social media and mostly by himself, but from time to time he has recruited some of his friends, including his tattoo artist Amber Lambert, to do pro bono work.
“I’ve been tattooing Scott for a while,” Lambert said. “And one day, I just came up with a little picture for him to use for a campaign flyer.”
Lambert, a self-proclaimed soccer mom of four who is tattooed from head to foot, said she is not the kind of person who votes, but if she were, she’d write in Grimes in November.
But potential write-in votes haven’t caused any lost sleep at Rep. Doyle’s office. Doyle’s chief of staff, David Lucas, was not aware that Grimes was still running and had assumed that he wasn’t because Grimes never filed with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Elections to be on the ballot.
Grimes might not be heading to Washington after Election Day, but he has learned a thing or two for when he runs for office again, which he intends to do.
“Me just stepping out of the blue saying, ‘Ahh, I’m running for Congress,’ has created a lot of challenges for this campaign,” Grimes said.
Next time he plans to take things a little more slowly.
“After the election, it’s my intention to get involved in the local political scene … making a name for myself so that come next election cycle, people are well aware of who Scott Grimes is,” he said.