EDITORIAL: Jess King's grass-roots Congressional run offers a refreshing change of pace

York Dispatch
  • Jess King is running in the redrawn 11th Congressional District.
  • The district includes all of Lancaster County and the southern part of York County.
  • King is running a grass-roots, energetic campaign that is finding surprising fundraising success.

She’s not a very familiar face or name in York County just yet.

Jess King, however, is doing her best to change that, one voter at a time.

King is the Democratic candidate in the redrawn 11th Congressional District, which includes Lancaster County and southern York County.

She’s also a political novice from Lancaster County, which accounts for her lack of familiarity in these parts.

Fundraising success: Still, King is running an energetic, grass-roots campaign that is producing some surprising results when it comes to fundraising.

She has more cash on hand ($350,000 to $300,000) than her Republican rival, incumbent Lloyd Smucker, and also has almost zero debt ($2,000) compared to $135,000 in debt for Smucker.

Just as notable, nearly all of her contributions are coming from individuals — a true sign of voter enthusiasm, according to local political analyst G. Terry Madonna.

Smucker, it should be noted, is still ahead in overall fundraising — having taken in more than $1 million since 2017. His campaign has also spent more than double the amount that King has spent ($980,000 to $430,000).

Contrast to Smucker: In contrast to King, most of Smucker’s donations have come from leadership political action committees, insurance companies and general contractors, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.

King’s fundraising philosophy is no accident, but rather entirely intentional.

"Right now, the average member of Congress is a millionaire," she said recently. "The influence of big money in politics is totally perverse and completely wrong. I believe it takes away the voice of individuals at the grass-roots level."

Political analyst: Many small donations a sign of enthusiasm for Dem in 11th District

Strategy is working: Madonna, the director of the Center of Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, said King’s strategy looks to be working.

"She has created excitement, particularly among Democratic voters," Madonna said. "The district is fairly red, but she's running a vigorous, energetic campaign. Smucker is running a conventional incumbent race, but King's generating a lot of excitement about change."

King’s strategy is not new, especially for Democrats, but it seems to be working surprisingly well considering the largely conservative voting base of Lancaster and York counties.

No easy task ahead: Energy, excitement and enthusiasm, however, will only go so far. Eventually, King must win the hearts and minds of the voters in the 11th Congressional District. That will be no easy task.

A King victory in November would be considered by most to be a major upset. In fact, King said “the national (Democratic) party has basically written off this area. In a lot of ways, I'm showing up as an independent, and we're finding out this resonates with people."

York County, meet 11th District congressional candidate Jess King

Putting up a real fight: It’s refreshing to see a Democrat (or independent) actually give a local incumbent Republican a real run for his or her money.

For so long, a Republican primary victory in this region pretty much assured that candidate of a cake-walk victory in the general election.

King, however, is conceding nothing to Smucker in the upcoming general election. She’s using phone calls, door-to-door campaigning and town-hall meetings to reach out to voters all across York and Lancaster counties.

She may not be able to pull off the upset, but she’s at least putting up a determined fight.

That, in itself, is a refreshing change of pace.