Dems to field candidate for 31st state Senate seat

Greg Gross
  • Jon Ritchie received 1,406 write-in votes, more than enough to appear as a Democrat on the Nov. 8 election ballot.
  • If he opts not to run, the Democrats can field another candidate.

The door for a Democrat to challenge Republican Mike Regan for the 31st state Senate seat in November has been opened, and local Democrats intend to take a giant leap through it.

Jon Ritchie, who was Regan's closest competitor in the Republican primary in April, received 1,406 Democratic write-in votes, well above the 500 needed to appear on the fall ballot, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Ritchie hasn't decided if he will appear on the ballot, said Mike Barley, his campaign manager, noting if Ritchie runs, he'd remain a Republican even though he'd appear on the Democratic ballot.

But if he declines, the ballot position will be considered vacant, said Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Department of State.

"If he does not take it, the Democrats can put someone in that spot," she said, adding Ritchie has until Aug. 15 to file the paperwork needed to run as a Democrat.

Jon Ritchie, candidate for the 31st Senate District, waits for results at Duke's Riverside in Wormlyesburg, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

Ritchie, a Cumberland County resident, is a former professional football player for the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Planning a run: Though a decision by Ritchie could be weeks away, Democrats in York and Cumberland counties started formulating a plan to find a candidate to run in his place.

Chad Baker, head of the York County Democrats, said he believes Ritchie will opt not to run.

"Given there will be an open spot on the ballot, we will work diligently to nominate a candidate for this spot and we will work tirelessly to get them elected in November," he said.

Since the 31st Senate District includes parts of York and Cumberland counties, the respective county Democratic parties will have to work together to find a candidate.

In past elections, York Democrats put out an open call for anyone interested in running to step forward. The county committee then took public input, reviewed the candidates and made final decisions, Baker explained in an email.

"It is my recommendation we do this again, except on a slightly larger scale given the inclusion of Cumberland County into the process," he said.

Regan, who is a state representative in the 92nd House District, handily beat his three GOP competitors in the primary for the Senate seat. Regan walked away with 53 percent of the vote. Ritchie was second, picking up a 31 percent share.

Elsewhere: Ritchie, the unintentional write-in victor, was the only candidate in York County to secure enough write-in votes to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot for a seat in the state General Assembly.

Democrats Shawn Little and Joe Stafford failed to secure the 300 votes needed to challenge Republican state Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill for her York Township-area seat, according to the York County Elections office.

And Dillsburg-area Democrat Curt Werner was 46 votes shy of meeting the threshold to appear on the ballot for the 92nd House District seat.

Dawn Keefer won the GOP primary for the 92nd, essentially securing the seat.

On the federal side, the name of Harrisburg Democrat Josh Burkholder was written in 2,213 times, and he will face Republican Congressman Scott Perry in November.

Burkholder only needed 1,000 write-in votes in order to appear on the ballot, Murren said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.