York's political parties gear up for primary

Greg Gross

The election season is officially upon us, despite the race for the White House informally starting months ago.

Tuesday was the first day candidates could circulate nomination petitions in Pennsylvania, meaning candidates for federal and state offices can start gathering signatures to qualify for the April 26 primary ballot.

On top of voting for a new United State president and electing two other federal officials, York County voters will decide who their representatives to the state House will be and voters in the northeastern part of the county will elect a new state senator this year.

Across Pennsylvania, voters will decide who will serve in the state's row offices of auditor general, treasurer and attorney general.

The deadline to submit the petitions is Feb. 16.

Locally: Two races in the northern part of the county for seats in the state General Assembly have already started to heat up.

So far, four people have announced their candidacies for the 31st state Senate District to replace longtime Sen. Pat Vance, who isn't seeking re-election. An equal number of candidates are already vying for the 92nd House seat, held by Rep. Mike Regan, who is running for Vance's seat.

"Those are going to be interesting races," said Alex Shorb, head of the York County GOP.

Regan and Vance, as well as the candidates, are Republicans.

York's Democrats are still seeking candidates for the two races and others in the county, said chairman Chad Baker.

"We're still waiting to hear back (from potential candidates) for some of those races," he said. "Nothing's been locked down."

Focus: Baker said he'd like to see the Democrats break through the GOP's historic majority in the General Assembly, especially since Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf holds the state's top office.

"Anytime we can provide support to a Democratic governor, that would be ideal," he said.

Chad Baker is chairman of the Democratic Party of York County.

The local Democrats will also put their focus on re-electing York County's lone party member, Rep. Kevin Schrieber of York City, in the House and will work to give Auditor General Eugene DePasquale a second term. They will also play a hand in putting a Democrat in the U.S. Senate by working to unseat Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

So far three Democrats — Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty, the former top aide to Wolf — have announced they are running for the seat.

By the same token, Shorb said his party is working to re-elect Toomey to a second term. They will also attempt to put a Republican in at least one of the three state row offices held by Democrats, and to get Republicans re-elected in the other state and national races.

"We need to deliver the message it is important that he (Toomey) retains that seat," Shorb said.

Philadelphia businessman Everett Stern is also running for U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket.

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry is also up for re-election this year, but no one has publicly stepped forward to challenge him for the seat.

Referendum: In a rarity, non-affiliated voters will also get to head to the polls for the primary, which is largely closed to all but registered Democrats and Republicans, to vote on two referendum questions to amend the state constitution.

Voters will decide if the retirement age for Court of Common Pleas judges should be increased from 65 to 75 and whether to dissolve the Philadelphia traffic court.

The traffic court question is a statewide referendum because the court is included in the state constitution. The court hasn't been operating for a few years after its duties were handed over to the Philadelphia Municipal Court, said Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State.

"Anyone not registered as a Democrat or a Republican will get a ballot with just those two question," she said.

There are 271,887 registered voters in York County. The Republicans maintain their lead with 132,122 voters, while the Democrats have 96,634 voters. There are 43,131 non-affiliated or other voters in the county, according to the Department of State.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.