After death of state Sen. Dave Arnold Jr., voters headed for another special election

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Pennsylvania's 48th Senate District is headed toward its second special election in as many years following the death of state Sen. Dave Arnold Jr., R-Lebanon, who succumbed to a 15-month battle with brain cancer Sunday.

Arnold won the Jan. 14, 2020, special election to represent northeastern York County, part of Dauphin County and all of Lebanon County after former Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, resigned amid a child pornography scandal.

Folmer was charged with, and later pleaded guilty to, three second-degree felony counts of possessing child pornography and to the felony of using an electronic device to commit the crime, according to court records. He is currently serving a jail sentence of just under two years.

"More:Ex-state Sen. Mike Folmer sentenced to prison, probation for child porn charges

Arnold had an "exemplary" voting record, visited his York County constituents and served the state well during his time in office, said Jeff Piccola, chair of the York County Republican Committee.

"He was a good guy, and we're going to miss him," he said.

Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold, the Republican nominee for the state's 48th District Senate Seat.

The process to fill the seat this time around will be the same as the process to fill the seat after Folmer resigned, Piccola said.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, president of the Senate, will choose the date of the special election, which could coincide with the May 18 primary or could be a standalone election on another date.

As of Monday, no details about the potential date of the election were available from Fetterman's office.

The state Democratic and Republican parties will appoint candidates to run in the election, according to the parties' by-laws, Piccola said.

On the Republican side, the state party will have a meeting of its delegates to nominate a candidate, Piccola said, but he doesn't expect the process to begin with any rush. He said it would be "highly inappropriate" for a potential candidate to make a move for the seat at this juncture.

Jeff Piccola, chairman of the York County Republican Committee.

"I think there needs to be a reasonable period of mourning and reflection, and I would be surprised if anybody announced their intentions this soon," Piccola said.

The 48th Senate District is a reliably Republican area where Arnold won the last special election with 64.7% of the vote over his Democratic opponent, Michael Schroeder.

The local Democratic Party has strong candidates who could run for the seat, said Daniel Sidelnick, chair of the Lebanon County Democrats, but realistically, winning would be an uphill battle in a district that voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, he added.

It would be a challenge to convince the average Republican voter in Lebanon County, the greatest portion of the 48th Senate District, to vote for a Democrat, Sidelnick said.

Officials from the York County Office of Elections and Voter Registration were unavailable for comment as county offices were closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

More:State Sen. Dave Arnold Jr., whose district includes part of York County, dies at 49

More:Republican Dave Arnold wins Senate race to replace Folmer