York-area congressional candidates scrambling amid uncertainty of new map

David Weissman
York Dispatch
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, and U.S. Representative Scott Perry prepare for a round table discussion during Pence's visit to Military & Commercial Fasteners Corporation in Manchester Township, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

New congressional maps released by the state Supreme Court and a likely challenge by Republican lawmakers have congressional candidates confused about how best to proceed in their campaigns.

York County, currently wholly in the 4th District with all of Adams County and parts of Cumberland and Dauphin counties, was split in the new map into the 10th District — including all of Dauphin County and part of Cumberland County — and the 11th District, joining all of Lancaster County.

The map of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts is to be in effect for the May 15 primary and substantially overhauls a congressional map widely viewed as among the nation’s most gerrymandered. The map was approved in a 4-3 decision on Monday, Feb. 19.

Political analyst Terry G. Madonna said his initial reaction to the map is that Democrats could easily pick up three to five seats in the 2018 election.

More:State Supreme Court splits York County in new congressional map

More:Trump urges GOP to fight Pa. congressional map

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning urging Pennsylvania Republicans to challenge the new map "all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary."

Republican lawmakers are expected to quickly challenge the map in federal court, arguing that Legislatures and governors, not courts, have the constitutional responsibility to draw congressional maps.

York County is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, who is planning to run for a fourth term in 2018.

New congressional map chosen by the state Supreme Court and unveiled Feb. 19, 2018.

A New York Times review of the new districts noted that "Perhaps no Republican will be more surprised by the new map than Mr. Perry, an incumbent from safely conservative York County."

Perry moves from the 4th District, which favored Trump by 21 points in 2016, to the new 10th District, which favored Trump by only 9 points in 2016, according to the New York Times.

Perry lambasted the state Supreme Court's decision in a statement, calling the new map "in direct violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution," and urged the U.S. Supreme Court to "end this farce immediately."

10th District: If the new map does stand, Perry could face a plethora of new challengers that already included Democrats George Scott, of Dillsburg, and Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, of York City.

With Republican incumbent U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta and Charlie Dent not seeking re-election to the current 11th and 15th districts, respectively, a wide field of challengers has emerged to seek the seats that represent parts of Dauphin County.

Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries has been campaigning for the Republican nomination for the 15th District, but a campaign spokesman said Tuesday that Pries has no intention of running against an incumbent GOP congressman if the new map stands.

State Supreme Court-drawn boundaries of the 10th Congressional District. Feb. 19, 2016

Andrew Lewis, a combat veteran and Lower Paxton Township business owner, has been campaigning for the GOP nomination in the 11th District. His campaign manager said he's waiting to hear more about the court challenge before making any decisions.

Chip Collica, of Hershey, is a declared Democratic candidate for the 15th District, but he has no campaign website, and contact information could not be located.

One Democratic candidate who did declare his intention to pursue election in the new 10th District is Alan Howe, an Air Force veteran living in Carlisle who has been campaigning in the 11th District.

Howe said he doesn't believe Republicans will win their court challenge, so he's going all in, pivoting his campaign into the new 10th District, which he added would drastically reduce his driving time.

More:Activist: York County denial of permit to burn flag violates First Amendment

The new map has even spurred a new challenger in Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp, who announced Tuesday he would run as a Democrat with his primary mission in Washington, D.C., being to impeach Trump.

Activist Gene Stilp (left) prepares to burn a hybrid Confederate-Nazi flag outside the Luzerne County courthouse Nov. 16, 2017. Stilp will bring the demonstration to York County on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo courtesy of Gene Stilp.

Stilp, who actually served as George Scott's campaign manager for a short time, previously ran unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 2012 and the state House in 2010 and 2014.

He is currently pursuing a lawsuit against York County commissioners for an ordinance that prevented him from burning a hybrid Nazi-Confederate flag in a demonstration outside the York County Judicial Center.

11th District: While Perry is expected to face a tougher challenge for re-election, his fellow Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker, of Lancaster County, would see a stronger conservative majority in the 11th District under the new map, according to the New York Times analysis.

By removing Democratic-leaning Reading and adding heavily Republican southern York County, Smucker — currently serving his first term representing the 16th District — would move from a district that favored Trump by 9 points in 2016 to one that favored him by 26 points, the Times analysis shows.

Lloyd Smucker

Smucker could not be reached for comment.

Challengers to Smucker's seat included Republican Bill Neff — a Lower Windsor Township resident who owns a Lancaster County business — and Democrats Christina Hartman and Jess King.

Neff, who is running a self-funded campaign, will continue to run and is actually excited about the changes to the district, according to his campaign manager Shelley Castetter.

Hartman, who ran against Smucker in 2016, said she's still weighing her options, noting that the maps are a win overall for Pennsylvania but disappointing for her, given all the work she's done during the past few years to turn a strong Republican hold into a potential flipped district.

State Supreme Court-drawn boundaries of the 11th Congressional District. Feb. 19, 2018

King, a Lancaster nonprofit director, has already declared she will continue her run in the new 11th District, according to a campaign news release.

King acknowledged in her release that she faces a "tough, uphill battle," but she noted the new map is "a big step toward guaranteeing fair representation in our democracy."

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.