Dem and Republican leaders: Midterm enthusiasm high in York County

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
FILE - In this July 14, 2018, file photo, computer mouse pads with Secure the Vote logo on them are seen on a vendor's table at a convention of state secretaries of state in Philadelphia. As alarms blare about Russian interference in U.S. elections, the Trump administration is facing criticism that it has no clear national strategy to protect the country during the upcoming midterms and beyond. Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the administration’s response as fragmented, without enough coordination across federal agencies. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Voters in York County are energized and ready to head to the polls for the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and, according to a local prognosticator, that goes for members of both parties.

G. Terry Madonna is director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

Madonna said he expects both the Democratic and Republican parties to have higher-than-usual voter turnout. And even though every midterm election is a referendum on the sitting president, he said, the notion of the presidential referendum is much stronger with regard to President Donald  Trump. 

"It all has to do with deep polarization and the degree to which the president is at the center of it," he said.

Madonna said Democratic voters have indicated that the main reason they're voting is to oppose President Trump, and Republicans have indicated that the main reason they're voting is to support him, even though the president himself is not on the ballot.

Past turnout: In the 2014 midterm general election, 45.28 percent of registered York County voters went to the polls, according to county voting data. Madonna said this was in keeping with participation statewide.

In 2010, the number was a bit higher at 49.36 percent.

Chad Baker, chairman of the York County Democratic Party, has taken part in nearly every Democratic campaign since 2002.

He said the energy he's seeing from voters right now rivals that of the 2008 presidential election, when then-Sen. Barack Obama was running after Republican President George W. Bush had been in power for eight years.

That year, 65.84 percent of York County voters turned out in the general election.

"Even though it’s only been two years of the current administration, there’s an energy this year that’s very, very similar to what I would say that I saw in 2008," Baker said.

He said the local voters he's spoken with are concerned about health care and the potential rollback of the Affordable Care Act, as well as property tax reform and education.

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Jeff Piccola, chairman of the York County Republican Party, said voters have been visiting the party office just about every day for the past month and that some have even changed their registration from Democrat or Independent to Republican.

"The specific reason that we’ve heard most recently is the Democratic behavior during the Kavanaugh situation, which in my view was absolutely over the top and completely out of line," he said.

Madonna also mentioned "the Kavanaugh effect," in reference to anger among voters about the confirmation process of Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Trump.

Kavanaugh: On Sept. 16, a few days before the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on whether to advance Kavanaugh's nomination to the full U.S. Senate for a confirmation vote, Kavanaugh was accused in The Washington Post of committing sexual misconduct at a high school party in the early 1980s.

Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. (Christy Bowe/Globe Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)

The accuser, a Palo Alto University professor named Christine Blasey Ford, first came forward with the allegation in a July 6 letter to her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. 

On July 30, Ford sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, detailing her allegation.

When the accusation was made public in September, Democratic lawmakers and pundits called for Kavanaugh to withdraw from consideration, while Republican lawmakers and pundits questioned why Feinstein neglected to share the information with the rest of the judiciary committee and why she kept it from the FBI during the agency's initial background investigation. 

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Kavanaugh vehemently denied the accusation and requested an additional hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee to address the matter. He and Ford both testified at the resultant hearing.

Republicans also took issue with the Democratic line of questioning over Kavanaugh's high school yearbook and his drinking habits.

On Oct. 6, the U.S. Senate voted 50-48 to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

"The Kavanaugh effect has seemed to have an influence on the Republicans, galvanizing and energizing them," Madonna said.

Potential outcomes: Baker said it's exciting for the Democratic Party to have two quality congressional candidates in York County, a Republican stronghold that Madonna said played a significant role in electing President Trump in 2016.

Jess King is running against Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, in the 11th District, and George Scott is running against Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, in the 10th District.

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Baker said he thinks the only way the Democrats can achieve a blue wave, potentially taking back control of the House of Representatives, is if the party gets voters out to the polls on Election Day.

"I think that’s one of the things that hurt us in 2016," Baker said. "We felt confident that we had it in the bag and we didn’t finish it out the way we needed to."

Piccola said he's never seen a president campaign at the local level during the midterms the way Trump has.

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018, in Lewis Center, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The president has held rallies in several states over the past several weeks, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and others.

"Even when that rally isn’t necessarily in your area, it energizes that base when he can connect his policies and his accomplishments to a local race for Congress or a local race for the United States Senate," Piccola said. "That really does a lot to energize people to get to the polls, and to some extent he’s nationalized this election."