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All three incumbent Lebanon County commissioners – Republicans Bob Phillips and Mike Kuhn and Democrat Jo Ellen Litz – won their municipal primary races Tuesday, with newcomer Michael Schroeder getting the second nod on the Democratic ticket. 

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kuhn received the highest number of votes at 10,160, while Litz had 4,285 cast for her on the Democratic ballot.

The final election tally for commissioner was:


  • Diana Carpenter – 3,099
  • Jo Ellen Litz – 4,285
  • Michael Schroeder – 3,211


  • William Bering – 6,599
  • Mike Kuhn – 10,160
  • Robert Phillips – 7,189
  • Sharon Zook – 4,449

Read More: Lebanon County 2023 primary election results

The candidates that competed in the Republican and Democratic primaries for Lebanon County Commissioner. At top, the Republican candidates, from left to right: Sharon Zook, Bill Bering Jr., Bob Phillips, and Mike Kuhn. At bottom, the Democratic candidates, from left to right: Diana Carpenter, Jo Ellen Litz, and Michael Schroeder.

“I’m honored that many Republican voters placed their faith in me,” said Kuhn. “I am humbled by all of the support I got from people that came forward to help in many different ways, and happy for them after they invested all of their time, effort, and resources in me, and we were successful.”

Commissioner Mike Kuhn was appointed by the four Lebanon County judges to complete the term left vacant by the death of Bill Ames in December 2021. He is pictured here in a LebTown file photo from a January 2022 commissioners meeting at the Lebanon County Municipal Building. Kuhn will compete this fall in the 2023 general election as one of two Republican candidates for commissioner. (Will Trostel)

Litz said she is grateful that her party’s voters put their faith in her to run for re-election this fall. Litz is seeking her seventh term in office in the November general municipal election.

“The Lord is not done with me yet, He has more for me to do,” said Litz. “I can only go on what I hear and what voters tell me. I take the time to communicate with people, whether in person or on social media. I don’t always have the answers to their questions, but I connect them with the right person ‘cause they’ve been spinning their wheels. They appreciate getting good information on who to talk to about their problem.”

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz is currently serving her sixth term as one of three members on the county’s top elected governing office. She is pictured here in a LebTown file photo from a January 2022 meeting. Litz won one of two Democratic slots for the 2023 general election to compete for a seventh term in office. (Will Trostel)

The May primary race for the two open slots on the Republican ticket in November became contentious in advance of Tuesday’s election.

Read More: Rhetoric heats up in GOP commissioner primary as party & PAC ads draw scrutiny

Kuhn, who served for 28 years on the Lebanon school board, was attacked in the weeks leading up to the primary with direct mail ads sent by the Lebanon County Republican Committee (LCRC), which had endorsed the Phillips-Bering ticket.

Read More: LCRC bases mail-in ballot mailer on minutes; video shows vote in question

Before the mailers were sent, there was a call for Kuhn to step down from the race following an incident involving campaign signs at a campaign rally at The Wetlands in Bethel Township in April. There was also controversy over ownership of a Facebook page in the first part of 2023. Both incidents stemmed from actions taken by Kuhn’s son, Alex Kuhn.

Read More:

Kuhn became a commissioner after he was unanimously selected by the four county judges to fill the unexpired term of the late Bill Ames, who passed away in December 2021. Kuhn was one of 24 to apply for the job and one of six to be interviewed prior to being selected.

Read More: Mike Kuhn officially becomes county commissioner at brief Tuesday ceremony

“What’s done is done and is in the past,” said Kuhn, when asked how the fractured Republican party in Lebanon County moves past the events of the past several months. “We have a job to do. I have a job to do as commissioner. I have a duty to the Republican party and the conservative values I have and the positive messaging we have.”

Read More: GOP contenders for commissioner reflect on whether it’s been a positive campaign

Phillips, who ran with Bering on a joint ticket, said all the candidates worked hard on their campaigns and “the voters then took it from there.”  

Commissioner Bob Phillips, who serves as chair of the county’s three-member legislative and executive council, at a January meeting of the commissioners in the Lebanon County Municipal Building. Phillips will compete as a Republican candidate in the 2023 general election seeking a fourth term in office. (Will Trostel)

“There will be some conversations between myself and Mike Kuhn and we’ll go from there,” said Phillips concerning next steps. “Those are steps that are maybe not too far off, but I’m assuming there will be conversations between the two of us. Obviously, Bill and I ran together and the goal was for us to make it to the finish line. It is disappointing at this point, but I also realize voters have the final say.”

Bering, who is a Swatara Township supervisor, extended congratulations to the two primary winners on the Republican ticket via an email to LebTown. It was Bering’s first run for commissioner. 

“Unfortunately the results did not come in as we had hoped. Congratulations to the winners of the Republican primary election. I’d like to thank all of our volunteers who helped throughout this process. My hope is that we can all work together and make Lebanon County a great place to work, live and raise a family,” wrote Bering.

Zook, the fourth person to run as a Republican, wrote to LebTown that she believes the votes cast for her reflect the desire of Lebanon County Republican voters who want to see local politics move in a new direction.

“My votes represent the thousands of people in Lebanon County who want new leadership that is professional and not politically connected. My campaign exemplifies how I would manage public funds, with my return on expenditures a fraction of the LCRC powerhouse that spent lavishly without yielding the ‘win’ they expected,” wrote Zook. 

She said feedback she’s received over the past week demonstrates what people want from their political leaders.  

“I expect to see financial support for candidates who care about our people, listen to their needs, and govern with integrity, because those are the qualities we need to serve our people,” wrote Zook. “We saw over 10,000 people come out and vote in support of good character and integrity yesterday – reinforcing who we are, and envisioning who we want to become in Lebanon County.”

Schroeder expressed several emotions in assessing his campaign’s win, and he congratulated Litz on her win and recognized Carpenter’s team for a well-run campaign.

“Mainly I’m feeling honored and humbled and deeply grateful – to the voters who cast their ballots for me, to my core campaign team for doing such a crackerjack job, and to the many friends and supporters who contributed in a wide variety of ways,” wrote Schroeder in an email to LebTown. “So now we’re recalibrating and tooling up for the general election in November, and I look forward to engaging with people of all political stripes – Democrats, Republicans, independents – on the issues that matter to them.” 

Michael Schroeder appears on-stage during a January 2020 WLBR candidates event for the special election to fill Pennsylvania’s 48th Senatorial District seat following the resignation of Mike Folmer. Schroeder won one of two slots to compete as a Democratic candidate for Lebanon County Commissioner in the 2023 general election. (LebTown file photo by Barb West)

Carpenter, the third candidate on the Democratic ticket, congratulated Litz and Schroeder for their primary wins in an email sent to LebTown.

“I am extremely proud and thankful for every single person on my team. I’ve built good relationships with our community, I learned so much over the last few months, and I will look forward to continuing to learn more about the community over the next four years and maintaining those relationships,” wrote Carpenter. “Lastly a congratulations is in order for Litz and Schroeder.”

Sean Drasher, director of the Lebanon County Bureau of Elections, wrote in an email to LebTown that voter turnout, which includes the mail-in ballots received at election headquarters, was 25 percent across the county’s 60 precincts.

“We had a very low turnout. That was felt across the county, with precinct after precinct reporting in throughout the day that they had zero wait times,” wrote Drasher. “But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The temporary Board of Elections did great. The staff did great. We had very light phone activity. Everything came together very nicely!”

Lebanon County elections director Sean Drasher operates a new mail-in ballot processing machine, the Falcon, in this LebTown file photo. (James Mentzer)

Concerning mail-in ballots, Drasher told LebTown in an interview on Tuesday, May 9, that he hoped to be able to report mail-in ballots received by party affiliation – which would be a first in Lebanon County. At that time, he was still working to implement technology into the county’s new Falcon voting machine, which was purchased by the county last fall.

The final mail-in vote count shared with LebTown via party lines is: 

Democrats: 4,137 sent out, 3,183 scanned back in as received (77%)

GOP: 2,666 sent out, 2,149 scanned back in as received (81%)

Drasher noted that Lebanon County’s return rate for mail-in ballots performed higher than any other of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. 

“These numbers are off the charts,” wrote Drasher in the same email. “I’m getting reports from across the Commonwealth that many counties were in the 50% response rate range, and I didn’t see any that broke out of the 60s. We set the bar really high in this metric.”

Drasher added in his email that these sets of numbers don’t align exactly due to various factors. 

“The number of ballots CAST will be slightly lower, because there will be some screened out for voting defects like (the infamous) missing dates, missing sigs (signatures), or naked (missing secrecy envelopes), etc. So you’ll see actual ballots cast end up being a slightly smaller number than the details above.”

Bins used to sort mail-in ballots at the Lebanon County Municipal Building during the 2023 municipal primary. (Will Trostel)

There were about 60 provisional ballots as of publication, according to Drasher. While that number might go up, he added that it will be marginal. Drasher also told LebTown that there were few military and overseas absentee ballot requests for this election cycle, adding those votes will not impact election results.

Looking ahead, the municipal election to determine who will be county commissioners for the next four years will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

A voter fills out a ballot at a polling place inside the Lebanon County Municipal Building during the 2023 municipal primary. Turnout for the election was approximately 25% across the county. (Will Trostel)
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James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...