Helfrich defeats Bracey in York City mayor race

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

Michael Helfrich’s gamble to run on the Republican ticket for York City mayor paid off Tuesday, Nov. 7, with the city council president ousting two-term Mayor Kim Bracey from the office. 

Helfrich, a Democrat, lost the Democratic primary to Bracey by just over 300 votes in May, but he secured enough write-in votes from Republicans to earn that party’s nomination for mayor. 

Helfrich has said he accepted the Republican nomination to give York City residents of all political affiliations another option in the 2017 municipal election. 

Speaking to supporters at Holy Hound Taproom after winning the election, Helfrich said he did not run just to hold the title of York City mayor.

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"I did this to be the leader of our community," Helfrich told the rowdy celebratory crowd.

According to unofficial election results from the York County Voting and Elections Office, Helfrich defeated Bracey by just 133 votes.

Helfrich picked up 2,120 votes, or 50.7 percent, while Bracey earned 1,987 votes, or 47.6 percent. David Moser earned 63 votes as the Libertarian candidate, according to the unofficial results.

In her concession speech at Coomb's Tavern, Bracey thanked her supporters and campaign team and said she will continue working for city residents until she leaves office.

"We have some work yet to do at City Hall," Bracey said, promising to see through a 4 percent property-tax reduction in the city's upcoming budget negotiations.

Bracey said she was confident that her administration, with the support of city residents, has left an indelible impact on the future of York City.

York City Mayor Kim Bracey thanks her sister and campaign manager, Candace Robinson, left, during a concession speech at Coomb's Tavern in York City Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

"We have changed York in a way that it will always be changed," Bracey said. "It will go down in history as one of the best places people can live, work and grow and have their families."

Anxious wait: In the hour or so between polls closing and the first vote counts being reported, both sets of supporters were confident their candidate had done enough to win the election.

Awaiting the results at Bracey’s watch party at Coomb’s Tavern, George Zerba said he was confident he would be celebrating another term for the mayor by the end of the night.

Zerba, 67, said Bracey had “done a good job so far” in eight years as mayor, reducing crime and lowering property taxes. If re-elected, Zerba advised Bracey to “continue doing what she’s been doing.”

“Why change?” Zerba said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

A crowd of Helfrich’s supporters gathered at the Holy Hound Taproom to watch the results come in with the candidate. 

Matthew Higgins, 27, said he moved to York City three years ago and soon began to think the city needed a change in leadership.

When Helfrich threw his hat in the ring, Higgins said he quickly jumped on board with Helfrich's message of “We can do better” and his platform that put the city and its residents first. 

“He doesn’t want to be the head of the government. He wants to be the leader of the city,” Higgins said.

York City Mayorial candidate Michael Helfrich waves to the crowd gathered at Holy Hound, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. John A. Pavoncello/jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com

Vickie Rice said she moved out of York City several months ago but still worked to garner support for Helfrich’s campaign because “it’s time for a change.”

A longtime friend of Helfrich’s, Rice, 48, said the city needs his ability to connect and relate to residents from all neighborhoods. 

“York is in need of change for the good. I believe Michael Helfrich has the ability to make York whole again,” Rice said, adding that she was “on pins and needles” waiting for the final result.

York City Council: With only two candidates running for three open seats on the York City Council, members Henry Nixon and Judy Ritter-Dickson swiftly wrapped up their re-election Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Ritter-Dickson won two seats on the council — a four-year term and a two-year term — and she will now have to choose which seat to take. The council will appoint a fifth member to fill the seat she does not take.

With his victory, Nixon earned another four years on the council.