Chronister back in race for York County commissioner


For the first time in the past several elections, five candidates will appear on the November ballot in the race for York County commissioner.

Incumbent Steve Chronister formally re-entered the race as an Independent when he filed his nomination petition containing 1,104 signatures — about 200 more than needed — with the county's election office on Monday.

"I relied on a quite a few people to get me through," he said of the signature collection process.

With the petitions filed, Chronister said he'll start to ramp up his bid for re-election.

"I'd like to continue but there's an end to everything," he said. "It's up to (the voters) now."

Republican and Democratic officials said this is the first time in recent memory, or possibly ever, an Independent will appear in a General Election for commissioner.

"It's likely to be the most interesting county race in the state," said Bob Kefauver, head of the York County Democratic Party.

Election: Chronister will face fellow incumbents Chris Reilly, a Republican, and Democrat Doug Hoke, as well as challengers Henry Nixon, a Democrat, and Republican Susan Byrnes in November. Democrat Duane Hull and Republican Kelly Henshaw were vanquished during the primary.

All three commissioner seats are open this year.

Chronister's earlier nomination petition to appear as a Republican in the May primary was challenged because of alleged invalid signatures. Instead of taking the challenge to the York County Court of Common Pleas, he withdrew from the race in March but vowed to run as an Independent.

In order to secure a place on the ballot, Chronister and his camp had to collect at least 919 signatures. The number of signatures needed is 2 percent of the total number of votes the highest vote-getter in a race for a county office received in 2013, the last election.

Unlike the closed-party primary — when candidates can collect signatures only from their party's faithful — any registered voter, despite party affiliation, can sign an Independent's nomination petition.

Chronister's nomination petition can be reviewed, and possibly challenged again, until Monday, Aug. 10, said Nikki Suchanic, director of the county elections office.

"That's the same amount of time objections can be filed for the primary, she said.

Chronister's latest nomination petition may come under the microscope since the Republican and Democratic parties typically go over petitions from minor parties with a fine-tooth comb.

"I know we will take a look at it, but at this point we have no reason to challenge," said Alex Shorb, head of the York County GOP.

What's ahead: The top three vote-getters in November will win seats on the board of commissioners.

If Chronister is one of those three and if voting results hold true to the Republican-dominated results of years past, Democrats could lose their voice in county government.

In the 2007 and 2011 general elections, Democratic candidate Hoke trailed the second-place Republican by about 5,000 votes, according to election records.

But it's not unheard of for an Independent to win a seat in county government in the two-party system. An Independent won a seat on the Northumberland County commissioners alongside a Republican and a Democrat in 2011, according to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

Calling Chronister a "wildcard candidate," Kefauver said it's highly unusual for an incumbent to be a third-party candidate in a typically two-party race. Kefauver was also critical of Chronister leaving the Republican Party to seek re-election.

"That's a politician putting himself above everything else, including the electorate of York County," Kefauver said.

Party heads ready: With the addition of an Independent to the York County commissioners race, heads of the two major parties are gearing up to help push their candidates through to victory in the November election.

"I think Steve will be a formidable opponent," Shorb said. "Both of our candidates are out campaigning in the community."

Kefauver said he's confident the two Democratic candidates have a very good chance of winning seats.

"We have two highly qualified Democratic candidates in this race," he said.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

When the elected commissioners take office next year, the president commissioner will make $89,730 annually, and the other two commissioners will be paid $86,525 each.

— Reach Greg Gross at