Ernie Merisotis for PA state Representative
Ernie Merisotis for PA state Representative

York County's state delegation will have at least two new representatives by the end of the year, with one new seat moving into the area and a longtime incumbent leaving office.

But challengers are hoping for even more new legislators, as two GOP incumbents face same-party competition in the May 20 primary.

Voters will have choices in most primary races, with a statewide push to unseat "career politicians" apparently contributing to the election's interest.

At least four of the primary candidates, two of whom are running against the Republican incumbents, said they're hoping to run with the support of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, or CAP, a group that wants to replace incumbents with conservative, business-minded leaders who don't consider politics a lifelong career.

Elizabeth Roberts  running for House of Rep against Seth Grove
Elizabeth Roberts running for House of Rep against Seth Grove

CAP executive director Leo Knepper has said the group's long-term goal is to get 15 senators and 55 members of the state House elected so it can put in place pro-business policies. The group only supports candidates who vow to follow certain smaller government principles and deny themselves perks such as a state pension.

Knepper said last week the group is hoping to keep momentum from the win by CAP member and supporter Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, but Knepper declined to say which York County candidates were part of the movement because of expected resistance from "folks in the General Assembly who like things the way they are."


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Local candidates: On Tuesday, four Republican candidates said they've signed CAP's pledge not to take the state pension, pay raises, or per diems and perks, but none have received donations from the group and they declined to say whether they're CAP-sponsored candidates.

"They don't say who they're supporting," said conservative Ernie Merisotis, who's running for the Jacobus-area 93rd House District seat being left vacant by Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus. Miller was defeated by Wagner in a March 18 special election for a Senate seat.

Henshaw
Henshaw

Merisotis said he signed CAP's pledge and filled out a questionnaire.

"I would welcome their support," he said. "We have some serious problems in Pennsylvania ... with career politicians who are out of touch with reality. Our lawmakers want to sound as if they're doing something without actually doing something."

Merisotis had previously identified as a tea party conservative, but said the term has turned pejorative because of "the media."

Marc Woerner is running for the Hanover-area 169th House District, which is being relocated to York from Philadelphia because of redistricting.

He said he hasn't received "financial confirmation" that CAP is supporting him, but he agrees with all the group's principles and is hoping for its help.

Woerner
Woerner

Elizabeth Roberts, spokeswoman for the York tea party group the 912 Patriots, said she has signed the pledge but hasn't been given financial assistance.

She's running against incumbent Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, in the Dover-area 196th House District.

Kelly Henshaw is making a bid for the Red Lion-area 94th House District, opposing incumbent Majority Whip Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township. He also said he has filled out papers but hasn't been given financial contributions.

Big differences: While all of the candidates are Republicans, their policy ideas and standards for state government vary.

Voters will have a chance to hear candidates debate the issues and air their contrasting viewpoints at a couple of upcoming forums.

The York County Republican Club will host a debate between Merisotis and Kristen Phillips-Hill, his GOP competitor in the 93rd House District, on April 28. The debate will be held 7 p.m. at Goodwill Fire Co., 1 S. Main St. in Jacobus.

Fox 43's Bill Toth will moderate, and the event will have a "small town" feel so voters can speak with candidates one-on-one.

Republican Club vice president Joel Ogle said he was surprised there were only two candidates for the open seat, but there are "big differences" between the two.

No Democrat has announced candidacy for the open seat, local Democratic party chair Bob Kefauver said.

Tea party debate: The York 912 Patriots will hold a Republican primary candidates forum moderated by WSBA radio host Gary Sutton at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at the Holiday Inn Conference Center, 2000 Loucks Road in West Manchester Township.

The event will feature Wagner, Roberts, Merisotis and Phillips-Hill, Kelly Henshaw, Woerner and fellow 169th candidates Gene Montanarelli and Kate Klunk.

Roberts said Grove and Saylor were invited, as were Zack Hearn, who's running against Wagner in the 28th Senate District, and Leroy Wentz, who's also running in the 169th House District. The candidates declined because of scheduling conflicts, she said.

Topics include education funding and PA Core Standards, the political power of Pennsylvania's unions, size and cost of Pennsylvania's legislature, prevailing wage, medical marijuana and transportation funding. The event is free and open to the public.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.