Rep. Lloyd Smucker cites Trump economy as driving force in re-election campaign

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who is running for the 11th District, at York Fair in West Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A new poll shows Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker with just a single-digit lead over his opponent, but the incumbent isn't afraid of the "blue wave," citing the success of the Trump White House as a driving force for his re-election efforts. 

The first-term incumbent is running against political newcomer Democrat Jess King for the 11th District congressional seat — a race that is proving to be competitive based on campaign financing and new poll results.

History: Born in Lancaster County to an Amish family, Smucker attended Lancaster Mennonite High School and started his own construction company, the Smucker Co., at the age of 17. He oversaw the business for 25 years.

He did so while attending Lebanon Valley College and Franklin & Marshall College part time.

Smucker has a brief history in York County politics. He first became a state senator in 2008 and served for two terms while representing a sliver of eastern York County.

In 2016, he ran for the 16th U.S. House District to replace the retiring Joe Pitts. The district consisted of most of Lancaster County, southern Chester County and a sliver of Berks County.

But now he's running for the 11th District after the state Supreme Court in February imposed a new congressional map that split York County — which had been fully in the 4th District — between the 10th and 11th congressional districts.

The court pushed the 11th District, formerly the 16th, west into York County and shifted the 10th District, previously the 4th, north to encompass all of Dauphin County.

Still, Smucker said he "has been very pleased with the reception" from voters in the new district, and he plans to utilize the "booming" Trump economy to win re-election in November.

Policies: The incumbent is running on policies boosting national security, securing the border, continuing economic progress under the Trump White House and increasing access to health care through a "free enterprise system" rather than what is provided under "Obamacare" — a measure he voted to repeal earlier this year.

"The campaign is continuing on the direction that we are on and through the policies we've been able to enact to provide more opportunities to people across the country through a booming economy," Smucker said. 

Rep. Lloyd Smucker, left, who is running for the 11th District, talks with York Fair Director Greg Saubel during York Fair in West Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The candidate cited economic growth over the past two years, including a low unemployment rate, consumer and business owner confidence and feedback from businesses in the district.

Smucker also touted legislation he proposed earlier this year to make overstaying a visa a criminal offense and his vote for an enhanced military budget to increase pay for soldiers and boost equipment access in the military.

With such a record and the fact that he's running in a conservative district, he said he's confident that he will be sitting in the 11th District seat come November.

But Smucker also acknowledged the possibility of things not going so smoothly.

"At least some segment of the Democratic party are energized by their opposition to Trump," he said. "We'll see how that translates to voter turnout, but there is no question that the Democratic party has gone further left, and there's an energy driven by the opposition."

As a result, he said, "There is a possibility that we wake up on Nov. 7 and there could be a Democratic majority," a scenario that would require 24 seats being flipped.

New poll: A new poll from Public Policy Polling, a polling firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina, shows King doing much better than what the Democratic Party could pull in the 2016 elections in the former 11th District.

The firm recently surveyed 552 voters in the district and found that Smucker holds a 9 percent lead over King — 44 percent to 35 percent, with 21 percent undecided.

Additionally, 41 percent of voters supported re-electing Smucker, and 41 percent of voters said they wanted someone new, the poll found.

Even with a 4.2 percent margin of error, the results contrast with 2016 presidential election results, where Trump won by nearly 26 points in the previous district.

But through Smucker's experiences on the campaign trail, he said, he's also seen the Republican party energized by economic growth and other policies that have been implemented while he's been in office.

Department of State statistics echo the energy.

York County went from 129,711 Republicans in May of 2015 to just recently breaking 150,037 registered Republicans, according to the department.

That puts registered Republicans in the county more than 37 percent ahead of the just more than 103,000 registered Democrats. 

But statewide, registered Democrats still have the upper hand, outnumbering Republicans 4,052,147 to 3,232,547, a more than 23 percent difference.

The campaign: Increasing Democratic interest has motivated Smucker to up his campaigning game, too.

His campaign website boasts 502 meetings with constituents in his several offices and 158 events with local businesses, schools and more.

But the incumbent also has the duty to serve in Congress and campaign at the same time, while his opponent has the advantage of running a full-time campaign, he said.

"We're not taking anything for granted," Smucker said. "You can't do this job well without having this interaction with people."

He's also raised more money than King, whom he describes as a "Bernie Sanders socialist."

Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who is running for the 11th District, at York Fair in West Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Smucker has raised more than $1 million so far in the campaign, 31 percent of which came from individuals, with the remaining money coming from political action committees and other entities, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

King, who refuses corporate PAC money, has raised more than $780,000, 98 percent of which came from individuals.

King has leveled criticism at Smucker for taking so much PAC money, but the incumbent doesn't see a problem with it.

"I'm fortunate for the support I get within the district," he said. "PACs may be from a company within the district or a company with a facility in the district. Even if it's from a PAC, it's from someone who believes in the policies we've implemented and wants us to keep doing it."

But Smucker has also spent more than double the amount King has, and he has less cash on hand.

While King's campaign has spent just shy of $430,000, Smucker's campaign has spent nearly $980,000, according to the FEC.

King's campaign also has more than $350,000 cash and less than $2,000 of debt.

That's a marked difference from Smucker's campaign, which has just more than $300,000 cash on hand and has more than $135,000 in debt.

What makes him different? Still, Smucker remains confident with the campaign because he "ran on a specific platform and kept those promises" and has been a part of an "amazing record" of economic growth in the country.

"People have more money in their pocket as a result of tax cuts, and those tax cuts have put businesses on a level playing field with companies throughout the world and have incentivized businesses," he said.

Still, despite clashing with King's platform, Smucker said bipartisanship is still needed in the House.

Smucker is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which was created to push through the political gridlock often seen today in Congress.

"To be most effective, Congress should be a deliberated body and should recognize that there are differences in districts and parts of the country," he said. "We have to find solutions that encompass the needs of various areas and parties."