EDITORIAL: York, uniquely on trend as always
Once again, York has proven its ability to be right on trend and yet completely unique.
On Election Day, Nov. 7, Democrats across the state and the country saw their fortunes turn around.
Virginia and New Jersey will have Democratic governors in January. In Pennsylvania, Delaware County will have two Democratic commissioners for the first time since 1980. Voters in Maine decided they want to expand Medicare.
A transgender woman won a seat in the Virginia State Assembly, becoming the first openly trans person to hold any state office in any state. Hoboken, New Jersey, elected a Sikh mayor. St. Paul, Minnesota, elected its first black mayor. Provo, Utah, elected its first female mayor.
Election Day turned into a rout for established politicians, and York City followed the trend, tossing out the political establishment and putting a new face in the executive spot as mayor.
But, since we are talking about York, the action looked a bit different.
York City Mayor Kim Bracey lost her bid for a third term. In January, Michael Helfrich will take the reins in the city.
Of course, Helfrich has his progressive credentials in order. He was on the ballot as the Republican nominee, but he's registered as a Democrat. He's spent decades as a community organizer and environmental activist.
He also has something very rare in any candidate for higher office: a record. Helfrich spent 45 days in York County Prison in 1991 before pleading guilty to felony counts of possession of and conspiracy to deliver drugs.
Helfrich has been a burr in the side of York City Democrats for years, ever since he first ran for York City Council in 2011.
"I am not a person who says, 'This creek needs to be cleaned up.' I say, 'I am going to clean this creek up, who is with me?'" Helfrich said at the time, explaining why he felt people like him should run for public office.
That first election, he lost in the Democratic primary, with incumbent Toni Smith taking the final spot on the November ballot. Helfrich staged a write-in campaign and won a council seat in the November 2011 election, besting Smith by 99 votes.
Bracey, who had been elected the city's first African-American mayor (and only the second woman to hold the office) in 2009, challenged Helfrich's seat, citing a section of the state constitution that prohibits anyone who has been convicted of "infamous crimes" from holding office. York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Stephen Linebaugh ruled in favor of Helfrich in August 2012, and Bracey declined to appeal.
This year, when Helfrich faced Bracey in the Democratic primary in May, no one was running as a Republican. Bracey won the Democratic nomination, but Helfrich picked up 223 write-in votes from Republicans, which got his name on the ballot on Nov. 7.
Then came Election Day, when Helfrich won by an unofficial 133 votes.
With everything that's been going on around the country for the past year, this seemed like the perfect election for voters to upend establishment. Here, the progressive wave went to our very own creek freak, who may look the part of the establishment — though he's anything but.
That's just so very York.