The death of Republican State Senator David J. Arnold, Jr. on Jan. 17, 2021 has left the 48th Senatorial District seat vacant for the second time in less than 16 months, and it appears that the same procedure that sent Arnold to Harrisburg will be used to choose his successor.

Arnold took office after winning a special election to replace State Senator Michael J. Folmer, who resigned on Sept. 18, 2019, after child pornography charges were filed against him. Arnold was sworn in as Folmer’s successor on Jan. 29, 2020.

At the time of his death, Arnold was still completing Folmer’s term, which ends in December, 2022. He would have had to run for a full four year term in the May, 2022 primary and, had he been successful, in the November, 2022 general election.

Pennsylvania law now requires the presiding officer of the State Senate, Lt. Governor John Fetterman, to issue a “writ of election” by Jan. 27, 10 days after the creation of the vacancy.

A special election will likely then be placed on the ballot for the upcoming municipal primary election on Tues., May 18, 2021, although a “standalone election” could be conducted, according to Lebanon County Director of Elections Michael Anderson.

The same law and the same general procedure were employed when Arnold was elected to fill out Folmer’s term.

The law also gives the governor the option of calling an “extraordinary session” of the General Assembly, which in turn would give Fetterman the option of scheduling an expedited election as early as Mar. 18, 2021, which would be 60 days after the vacancy was created.

Each party can select a candidate to run in a special election for the vacant 48th District seat, without a party primary contest.

No one had announced a desire to run by publication time, although several Republicans who currently hold office or who are employed in political occupations were rumored to be interested.

The 48th District covers all of Lebanon County and small parts of Dauphin and York Counties.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...