Candidates begin hunt for nomination in 48th Senatorial District special election

10 min read839 views and 143 shares Posted October 4, 2019

With a special election scheduled for January 14, 2020 to fill the 48th Senatorial District seat vacated by the resignation of Mike Folmer, prospective candidates are starting to throw their hats into the ring.

With the preliminary hearing for the criminal charges against Folmer delayed until October 31, attention has turned to the Republican and Democratic party processes for selecting a candidate, and media outlets statewide have jumped in to cover the race.

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Because the 48th Senatorial District spans multiple counties — all of Lebanon County and parts of York County and Dauphin County — the nomination process is being conducted by the state Republican and Democratic Party committees.

Candidacy is open to 48th District residents who are 25 years or older and registered to one of the parties.

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The Democractic party is asking that candidates submit an application using this online form no later than next Thursday, October 10. Candidates will receive a confirmation receipt upon submission of their form. Electors will convene in a meeting at 1:30pm on Sunday, October 20 at WellSpan Philhaven. Candidates will have a chance to address the caucus for no more than five minutes. Afterwards, the caucus will vote to nominate a candidate, with a majority plus one required to take the nomination (the full bylaws are a bit more complicated with lowest vote-getters eliminated after the first vote and tie-breaking being done by the Credentials Committee).

The only Democratic candidate that has publicly identified himself in a press release to the news media, to date, is Annville resident Matt Duvall. (See more about Duvall below.) According to Lebanon Democratic County Democratic Party Chair Dan Sidelnick, a list of candidates is expected to be distributed by press release after the October 10 deadline. For the Democratic Party, all Democratic committee members from the 48th District are eligible to vote, so Lebanon County will have 96 members from the district eligible to vote, compared to 26 for York and 11 for Dauphin, according to party officials.

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Sidelnick said that four candidates from Lebanon County have applied so far, and he expects one more to apply before the deadline. So far, the candidates who have filed are Michael Schroeder of Annville, David Lloyd of Mt. Gretna, and Jo Ellen Litz of Lebanon, and Matt Duvall of Annville (mentioned above). LebTown has reached out to Schroeder, Lloyd, and Litz requesting more info on their candidacies.

For the Republican Party, Lebanon County will have 41 conferees, York County will have 17, and Dauphin County will have 14.

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The Republican Party nomination is taking nominations through today. Letters of intent can be emailed to Gerry Wosewick at gerry@pagop.org. The letter of intent should include a resume or CV. At a “conferee” meeting scheduled for Saturday, October 19 at Lebanon Valley College, candidates will make a short presentation and take questions. Afterwards, conferees will vote to nominate a candidate, with a majority plus one required to take the nomination.

In Lebanon County, GOP Committee Chairman Casey Long has asked individuals to email him their letter of intent as well. “We are pleased that Lieutenant Governor Fetterman has set the Special Election for the earliest date possible as the people of Lebanon County deserve representation in the State Senate,” said Long in a press release to LebTown. “We are absolutely committed to a fair and open conferee process which I am fully confident will result in the selection of a strong candidate who will ensure that this Senate seat remains in Republican hands as it always has ever since the inception of the Republican Party in 1854,” said Long in the release

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Long noted that all candidates are invited to attend a Lebanon County Republican Chairman’s Club Reception on Thursday, October 10 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm at the Batdorf Restaurant in Annville where they will have an opportunity to meet and address all Lebanon County Republicans in attendance. The press release said that a portion of the proceeds from this event will be donated to assist the victims of child sexual abuse.

The Lebanon County GOP will also be holding a Conferees Candidate Convention on Sunday, October 13 at 5pm at the Lincoln GOP Club Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

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The GOP nomination process will be a bit unusual due to the circumstances of this spring’s primary for the Lebanon County Commissioner nomination. This spring, citing actions they said damaged the brand of the Republican Party, State Representatives Russ Diamond (R-102), Frank Ryan (R-101), and Folmer called for Long’s resignation from the chairman position.

Read More of Our In-Depth Coverage: No punches held as Lebanon County Republicans splinter along Commissioners race

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On Wednesday, Diamond announced that he will seek the Republican nod for the special election, joining Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, who had announced previously. Locally, Lebanon County DA Dave Arnold and small business owner Bill Bering Jr. have also announced their interest in the position.

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-106), who had previously said he would consider the nomination if approached about it, told the Middletown Press & Journal on Monday that he has “no intent” to apply for it.

The last day to file nomination papers for this election will be November 24, with 1,208 signatures required. The last day to register to vote and be eligible for this election is December 16.

Conservative think tank leader Matt Brouillette first in

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Brouillette, first to announce, is a former educator turned conservative think tank executive who currently runs the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs.

“Our next state Senator has a responsibility to stand up for the principles that made America exceptional, to fight so every child has educational opportunity, to resist the pressure to bow to special interests, and to work tirelessly to protect taxpayers and advance free-enterprise across our district and our state,” said Brouillette in a release.

Brouillette, who lives in Lebanon County and also serves as a Republican committeeman for the Lebanon County GOP, said in a press release that he hopes to provide, “A strong conservative voice who is ready to take on the tough policy battles that lie ahead” and that, “This is a fight I’ve long been engaged in, and I’m ready to take to the Capitol.”

Prior to joining the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, Brouillette served from 2002-2016 as president and CEO of Commonwealth Foundation.

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State Rep. Russ Diamond second to announce

“The people of the 48th District deserve a Senator who knows his way around the legislative process, has existing relationships with current Senators, can provide a smooth transition, and has an established record of standing up for Republican values,” said Diamond in a press release.

“I’ve sought counsel from colleagues, Senators, my fiancée, family members, my campaign team, and the general public. After much consideration, prayer, and assessment of the time commitments required to seek the nomination, campaign, and serve in the Senate, I believe I am the most qualified and logical choice to fill this vacancy.”

Diamond is currently in his third term as a state representative and is a member of the Agriculture & Rural Affairs, Gaming Oversight, Finance, and State Government Committees. At the beginning of the 2019-20 legislative season, Diamond was appointed Secretary of the State Government Committee.

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“Our entire community was stunned by the circumstances that created this vacancy,” added Diamond on the departure of former-Senator Folmer. “As we move forward, we’ll need the steady and experienced hand of someone close to the people who can hit the ground running, help bring the community together, and work for a better Pennsylvania.”

Lebanon County DA Dave Arnold formally announces

Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold also joined the race this week, with an announcement Thursday that followed a period of consideration over the last couple weeks. “The last two weeks have been challenging for all of us and, as a prosecutor, the gravity of the circumstances surrounding why this seat is vacant are not lost on me and my prayers remain with those victims,” said Arnold. “That is why it is critical that we nominate a candidate who will restore credibility to the 48th District. I know I am that candidate.”

“I am a consistent conservative who will fight to protect the sanctity of life and, as a member of the NRA, strongly supports our 2nd Amendment rights. I will fight for lower taxes and believe that government must live within its means. As District Attorney, I worked to ensure we kept to our budget and our legislators in Harrisburg should be held to the same standard. I support the elimination of property taxes, particularly for seniors on a fixed income.”

Read More: State Rep. Frank Ryan discusses proposed bill to end property taxes

“While I have firm roots in Lebanon County as a lifelong resident, Cedar Crest High School graduate and having been both a youth basketball and softball coach, I am an outsider in Harrisburg. I will go to the State Capitol with a purpose and fresh perspective on many issues, especially ensuring the public safety of our communities.”

Arnold has been Lebanon County DA since January 2006. He has also served as the President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and currently sits on the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission, as well as chairing Lebanon County Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

Matt Duvall only candidate public so far for Dems

Duvall is an instructional designer for Vista Autism Services of Hershey. Previously, he was a high school teacher and a software development engineer. He has a PhD from Drexel University in educational leadership and learning technologies, with a focus on STEM education.

Duvall is a Western Pennsylvania native. He, his wife, and their three children have lived in Annville since 2006. Duvall said he ran previously for Annville Township commissioner in 2017.

In a news release sent to LebTown, Duvall said “[m]y overarching philosophy is human-centered. I believe too many things get pinned on being ‘just the way the system works,’ without acknowledging that ‘the system’ is created by people. My expertise is in designing systems, from software to educational programs, and so I understand that they can be redesigned to improve equitable access for all.”

Duvall also listed some specific issues and interests, including strong unions as a necessary part of a prosperous economy, raising the minimum wage, high quality public education, broadband internet access for all, and harnessing technology to promote the general public good.

Randy Hoffman joins Republican pool

Randy Hoffman, a Republican and the former owner of R.B. Hoffman Insurance Agency and We Your Whistle Beverage, announced his intention to seek the nomination for the vacant 48th District Senate seat.

He brings with him some experience having served on the Lebanon City Council as the Director of Accounts and Finance as well as Vice-Mayor. Additionally, Hoffman spent 8 years as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in North Cornwall Township.

According to the press release announcing his intent to seek the nomination, one of the main aspects of Hoffman’s platform is promoting more responsible spending on the part of the state government.

“My primary focus will be to reduce government spending to sustainable levels. Over the past 10 years our State’s spending has increased at twice the rate of inflation. One way to achieve that is for the State to enact the “Taxpayer Protection Act” The TPA amends the constitution to limit the growth of spending to the average of the rate of inflation and population growth over a 3-year period. TPA bakes fiscal restraint into every budget”

Hoffman is a lifelong Lebanon County resident and currently resides in North Cornwall Township.

LVC prof Michael Schroeder vying for Dem nod

Michael Schroeder, who works as an associate professor at Lebanon Valley College, announced via a letter to the Democratic Party Committee Members in Lebanon, Dauphin, and York Counties.

The 61-year old Schroeder has never held public office, but has been vocal in the community through numerous op-eds, letters to the editor, and articles that have appeared in the Lebanon Daily News, PennLive, WGAL-TV, and on WLBR-AM’s Laura Lebeau Show.

Schroeder is an active community member and environmentalist who currently serves as the Director of the Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum.

“I know that running for PA State Senate is a potentially life-changing decision. The opportunity costs would be high. But so too would the rewards. It is my feeling that this historical moment, at the dawn of the third decade of the twenty-first century – where we stand today, as a Commonwealth, as a nation, and as human beings on this planet – demands that I give it my best shot. I feel mentally and physically strong, ready, and eager for the challenge,” said Schroeder in his announcement letter.

Campmeeting resident David Lloyd joins Dem fold

Another Democrat vying for the 48th District Senate seat is David Lloyd, the Vice-Chairperson of the West Cornwall Board of Supervisors.

Lloyd earned a Bachelor of Arts from Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina then went on to accrued over 40 years of experience in the administration and development of not-for-profit and municipal services.

He is currently the CEO of EARS Inc. a not-for-profit organization that serves over 250 adults with intellectual disabilities and autism in Lebanon and Lancaster Counties.

According to a press release announcing his candidacy, Lloyd “feels as the next Senator from the 48th District, he plans to direct his energies in keeping the Commonwealth fiscally, environmentally, and socially in step with the 21st century.”

Lloyd is currently a resident of the Mount Gretna Campmeeting.

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz waits on formal announcement

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz has also submitted her name for consideration to the Democratic committee. “Because the process is more like an Electoral College where the only people who vote are the elected Democratic committeepeople, I didn’t send out a formal announcement,” said Litz in an email to LebTown. “Instead, I emailed a letter of introduction directly to the committeepeople who will have the final say.”

“After their convention, their selection will produce the candidate for the Senate seat,” said Litz. “If selected, I thought it appropriate to make a formal announcement at that time.”

Litz was born and raised in Lebanon County, the former owner of Lebanon Body Shop, and previously a substitute teacher. Today, in addition to serving as a County Commissioner, a role she first held 1995-199 and then from 2003 to present, Litz is the owner of Litz Company commercial rentals, the President of the Swatara Watershed Association, and the President of the Women’s Club of Lebanon.

Litz is known for her use of social media and digital video, and commonly shares footage from meetings and events she attends as a Lebanon County Commissioner on her Facebook page.

Other candidates declared but have not responded to LebTown yet

According to the Lebanon Daily News, a couple other folks are interested in the GOP nomination, but have not shared press releases or biographical information with LebTown yet.

The Daily News reports that Paul Vranesic, regional director of sales and marketing for ManorCare Health Services, is interested in the position, as well as Tom Ryan, a York County retired businessman, and Charlie Greenawalt, an associate professor at Millersville University.

A few other candidates have entered the race according to a mailing from the PA GOP. Lebanon business owner Nathan Brightbill, community activist Jack Hamlett, and Steelton Highspire School District teacher Stephen Roth have also submitted their names for consideration.

Stay tuned for LebTown throughout this process as we will be continually updating this article as well as publishing new stories in the future.

Matt Reigle and Chris Coyle contributed reporting to this article.

Full Disclosure: The campaign of Jo Ellen Litz for Lebanon County Commissioner and the Lebanon County Democratic Committee are advertisers on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.

An earlier version of this article asserted that the Democratic caucus was “closed door”. According to a copy of the bylaws provided by Jo Ellen Litz, the caucus will actually be open to the public.

This article was updated on October 8 and October 10 to include additional candidate information, and on October 12 to include information about the Lebanon County GOP Conferees Candidate Convention.

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