Rivera set to be York's first gay Latino councilman; Buckingham mulling options

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch
York City Council candidate Lou Rivera, center, jokes with supporter Fred Walker and incumbent West York Borough Council candidate Mildred Tavarez Sandie Walker during a watch party at Mi Caldero restaurant in York City Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

First-time candidate Lou Rivera likely earned a spot on the York City Council on Tuesday with a slim lead ahead of his closest competitor in the Democratic primary — and is set to become York's first openly gay Latino council member. 

"Ladies and gentleman, we have made history," Rivera told supporters at an election party Tuesday, May 21.

But the race might not yet be over.

No Republicans sought that party's nomination for City Council on Tuesday's ballot, but Councilman Michael Buckingham, who lost the Democratic primary, solicited Republican write-in votes and is considering a run in November's municipal election. 

Buckingham lost the race by about 4 percentage points to Rivera with all precincts reporting, according to the York County Board of Elections. 

Buckingham said he solicited Republican write-in votes in a letter to residents. He needs at least 100 to appear on the Republican ticket in November. The York County Board of Elections will have write-in votes confirmed by June 3. 

If he reaches that mark, Buckingham said Wednesday, he isn't sure if he will make the decision to actively campaign. 

"Then it's kind of a new campaign and requires a lot of energy. I have to think hard about that," he said. 

Successful write-in campaigns are not unprecedented in York City elections — that's how Mayor Michael Helfrich won his initial seat on the council in 2011 and unseated former Mayor Kim Bracey in 2017. 

If Buckingham does run on the GOP ticket, Rivera said he's ready to continue his campaign "with full force." 

Results: Rivera came in third in the tight race, behind York City Council members Sandie Walker and Edquina Washington, respectively. 

Walker received the most votes at 1,202. Second was Washington with 1,106 votes. Rivera garnered 1,012. Buckingham received 843 votes.

Buckingham said he was happy his fellow council members got the top two votes and admitted Rivera beat him "fair and square."

"I've been saying all along if the Latino wants to be represented on council, that person has to be elected, so I see no problem with that. He ran a good campaign," Buckingham said. 

Buckingham and Washington were not elected to the council. In 2018 they were appointed by the council to to fill open vacancies. At the same time, the council decided not to appoint Rivera. 

“The people have spoken, not three city councilmen — the people,” Rivera told supporters Tuesday night.  

"This is historic in York, Pennsylvania. We have not had a Latino on City Council in more than 20 years, and this is the first step," Rivera said. 

This is Washington's first election win. 

"I am very grateful to God, and I am grateful to all the voters in the city of York for believing in me and trusting in me that I can continue to move York forward," Washington said. 

Walker did not respond to requests for comment.

'Here for change': A lively crowd of Rivera supporters filled Mi Caldero, 605 S. George St., and many said they were excited for an official that better represented the York community. 

"He's here for change," said Mina Edmondson, a York City resident of 22 years. 

"He touches so many diverse communities, and he listens and cares," she said. "He doesn't make judgment."

Tesla Taliaferro, a York City resident, said Rivera will bring a wider representation to the council — for both the gay and Latino populations. 

Taliaferro's partner, Charles Kress, said he's excited for Rivera's "new, fresh thoughts" on the council.