Mailer attacking Byrnes in York County commissioner race confuses voters


For the second time this election season, Kelly Henshaw attacked another Republican York County commissioner candidate for supporting Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

This one came in the form of a mailer that features the front page of a fictitious newspaper, The York News, that has "Susan Byrnes switches to Democrat!" scrawled in headline form across it.

The mailer, which landed in the mailboxes of numerous voters on Tuesday, also features a picture of Byrnes alongside images of Wolf and President Barack Obama with "Can you trust party-switcher Susan Byrnes" written at the top.

Though the mailer left some voters confused about which political party Byrnes belongs to, it also spurred on support for her, Byrnes said.

"What it did was it renewed the enthusiasm of my supporters," she said on Wednesday.

The mailer was paid and authorized by the Friends of Kelly Henshaw, the committee to elect Henshaw.

Response: Byrnes, a health activist who hasn't sought public office until now, said she was contacted by voters who said they were disgusted by the tone and content of the mailer, according to a statement Byrnes issued.

Byrnes admitted that she switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party last spring so she could vote for Wolf, a fellow York County resident, in the primary. She later re-registered as a Republican.

"As Tom's platform became clearer I determined that many of my beliefs and Tom's about the role and scope of government differed, and I returned to my Republican voter registration on Sept. 4, 2014, well in advance of the general election in November," she said. "That decision, mirrored by hundreds of other Yorkers, to support a York countian in the primary election is the basis for these negative characterizations and attacks."

Previous attack: Henshaw, a Red Lion councilman, previously voiced his dismay at incumbent Steven Chronister, president of the board of commissioners, for openly supporting Wolf.

"There are things with him (Chronister) that I don't think are very Republican and conservative," Henshaw said in December when he announced his candidacy. "I believe in working with the other party but not supporting it."

Chronister withdrew from the Republican ballot in March after his nomination petition was challenged, but he said he intends to run as an Independent in the November election.

Byrnes, Henshaw and incumbent Chris Reilly will appear on the Republican ballot for the Tuesday primary. On the Democratic side, incumbent Doug Hoke will face challengers Henry Nixon, a York City councilman, and Duane Hull, a former Dover Township supervisor.

Confusion: Mary Jane St. Onge was more than a little confused by the mailer attacking Byrnes when she received it at her Springettsbury Township home.

St. Onge, a registered Republican, called the York Dispatch asking if Byrnes is a member of the GOP or a Democrat.

"What a low thing to do. But I guess that's politics," she said after learning Byrnes is on the Republican ballot.

But there was one aspect of the mailer that St. Onge said may work in Byrnes' favor.

"He put a very flattering picture of her (Byrnes) on it," she said. "That might actually help her."

Flip side: The back of the mailer touts Henshaw as a lifelong Republican who "never strayed from the party that (presidents Abraham) Lincoln and (Ronald) Reagan built" and has the "experience necessary to hit the ground running on day one."

It also states that since Byrnes doesn't have experience in government, her "first term will simply be on-the-job training" and that she was "handpicked by Harrisburg insiders" to run in the election.

State. Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, is serving as Byrnes' campaign chairman.

However, Henshaw also has ties to Harrisburg. His committee received $1,000 from state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, according to finance reports filed with the York County Bureau of Elections and Voter Registration.

Henshaw's committee also received more that $14,000 from Wagner, who wasn't an elected official at the time, in 2012, when Henshaw unsuccessfully ran against Saylor for the state House, according to finance reports filed with the state.

"I am deeply disappointed by candidates resorting to these mean-spirited and diminishing activities. Such actions are damaging and demeaning to the Republican Party that means so much to those of us who represent it," Byrnes said. "No one is swayed by such caustic methods."

Henshaw couldn't be reached for comment.

— Reach Greg Gross at