City GOP won't field candidates Deadline passes
BY BERNARD HARRIS, Staff Writer
May 21 is shaping up to be a one-sided day in Lancaster city.
No Republican candidate had filed nominating petitions for inclusion on next month's primary election ballot for Lancaster city's municipal races when the deadline passed Tuesday.
Mayor Rick Gray and City Council members Louise Williams, Todd Smith and Tim Roschel and newcomer Pete Soto were not likely to be challenged in the Democratic primary.
But the lack of Republican candidates means they are unlikely to face serious opposition in the November general election.
Unless ... some Republicans act otherwise.
Four years ago, Gray, then running for his second term, did not initially face a Republican candidate. It was only after more than 100 Republican voters wrote in the name of former Mayor Charlie Smithgall that Smithgall's name appeared on the November ballot as the party's candidate.
Smithgall, asked Wednesday if he would run again this year, responded by asking if his name was on the candidate list.
"Well, there's your answer," Smithgall said when told it was not.
Smithgall, who was mayor from 1998-2006, last ran for office two years ago. He was defeated in a bid to serve on City Council. Afterward he declared he was done with politics.
Lisa Colon, chairwoman of the Lancaster city Republican Committee, announced in an email message Tuesday night that the party would not field candidates in this year's municipal elections.
Colon wrote that several candidates had been interviewed by committee members, but the decision was made to instead concentrate on building the party within the city.
"Our focus is on the future and preparing our committee to serve the needs of our community in the present and future years to come," she wrote.
Smithgall said Wednesday that he met with committee members three or four weeks ago. He was asked to run for mayor again. He declined, he said.
Smithgall, a pharmacist, has been asked by many people to run. "A lot of them were Democrats," he added.
While Smithgall said that "anything could happen," he also added that he does not believe there will be an effort to write in his name.
Randall Wenger, the chief clerk of the county Board of Elections, said only 100 Republican voters need to write in a name for a mayor or City Council candidate to have that person receive the party nomination.
The difficulty is having that name written the same by 100 or more voters. In May 2009, more than 70 people wrote in the name of Charlie Smithgall. Another 30 wrote in the name of Charles Smithgall.
Smithgall said he was not aware of the effort nor did he support it. Yet, a month later, Smithgall accepted the call to run and petitioned the court to consolidate the two lists, giving him more than 100 write-in votes.
Smithgall eventually lost the election by only 313 votes.
"Anybody always has the ability to write in anybody's name that is not on the ballot, but it certainly is easier to circulate nominating petitions," said Wenger.
Third-party candidates can now begin circulating nominating petitions to have their names included on the November ballot, Wenger said.
Peter Ruggieri, a salesman, had previously announced his libertarian bid for mayor.
Paul Culbreth, a Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology administrator, said he is also considering an independent run for mayor.
Gray, a former attorney, said Wednesday he was not aware there were no Republican candidates.
"My door-to-door is laid out though October and we intend to get out and talk to the people," Gray said of his campaign.
"We want to stay in touch with the people we represent. ... We intend to do that whether anybody is running against us or not," he said.