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Steve Mentzer, a Republican from Manheim Township, is being challenged for a second time by Democrat Dana Hamp Gulick to represent the 97th House District.

Election 2020

To read this story in Spanish, click here. 

LNP | LancasterOnline asked each candidate in Lancaster County a set of questions and asked them to respond. We are publishing their responses, in their own words, with editing only for newspaper style and spelling.

The District: The 97th is one of the most rapidly changing House districts in Lancaster County — although Republicans still exceed the number of Democrats in the district by nearly 10,000 voters. Republicans have lost approximately 600 voters, while Democrats picked up about 2,000 since 2018.

This year is another repeat of 2018, like in the 41st House District, with Democrat Dana Hamp Gulick challenging four-term legislator Steve Mentzer for a second time. She lost to him by approximately 8 percentage points last election (about 4,000 votes).

Represents: Lititz Borough, Warwick and Manheim townships.


Candidate: Steve Mentzer (incumbent)

  • Party: Republican.
  • Age: 64.
  • Residence: Manheim Township.
  • Occupation: Legislator since 2013. Previously investment adviser, founder and president of the nonprofit Central American Relief Efforts.
  • Education: Attended Elizabethtown College as a business administration major but no degree.
  • Family: Wife Sally; children Lynn and Marc.

1. Why are you running? What is your pitch to voters?

I am running to continue to bring responsible and effective leadership to the residents I serve. In Harrisburg, I will continue to focus on the issues that make a positive difference to our community: fiscal discipline, education, economic growth, health care and keeping our neighborhoods safe. The fact is that, despite the increasingly partisan divide in our country, my record is one of bringing together Republicans and Democrats to get results on these and other issues.

During my time as representative, I have supported initiatives that provided record funding for education, made our economy the strongest it has ever been before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, protected taxpayers from massive tax increases, supported our law enforcement community, and worked to make health care more affordable.

This year, with the coronavirus hitting our state, I have continued to work in the same manner and passed laws that expanded coronavirus test reporting across the state, supported our frontline workers and health care workers with emergency funding for vital supplies, and provided increased support and oversight for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

2. What are your priorities to help the state recover from the economic and human toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken?

While Pennsylvanians understood early measures taken to address COVID-19, it unfortunately took recent federal court actions to prove that the administration was not making decisions as it said it was. It never should have come to that … citizens should ALWAYS know how their government is working for them.

Maybe it is time to turn to a different model: one of transparency and building coalitions. We must bring together all stakeholders — legislators, small businesses, the medical community, the education community, residents and others — to make open decisions based on real data.

Our first goal under this model must be restarting our economy in a safe and responsible manner that protects our citizens and workers — because a resurgent economy will help us address so many of the challenges we face today.

Our second goal must be to safely return life to normalcy. This step will improve the mental and physical health of residents while also allowing people to once again get all the medical treatment they need.

Finally, we must ensure that decisions like those — again, made in secret — that forced COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes and long-term care facilities causing countless deaths, never happen again.

3. Can you briefly describe what you would do to address what residents have told us are the issues they are most concerned about: health care, the state budget and school property taxes? Given the 200-word limit, you may choose to respond to a single topic instead of all three.

While the issues mentioned are no doubt important, the number one issue I have heard from the people of the 97th District is the absolute necessity to safely restart our economy and return life to as normal as possible.

The fact is that the ongoing shutdown — which, again, federal court action proved was not nearly as “data driven” as we were told — has taken an intolerable toll on Pennsylvania.

Small businesses — the economic engine of our state and largest employers of our citizens — are dying. Families who can no longer work are struggling to pay their bills and have concerns about mental health and quality education for their children. Retired seniors are tired of being prevented from seeing loved ones.

By building a strong coalition to make decisions transparently — and by turning away from one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t work in a state as large and diverse as ours — we can take the steps necessary to protect the health of our residents and give them back their lives and livelihoods.

4. Surveys show that partisanship is increasing and people of different political views are growing less trustworthy of one another. How will you seek to build bridges to voters who don’t support you or share your views?

Partisanship has always been a part of American politics, but the rise of “activist journalism,” 24-hour news channels scrambling for ratings, and social media has made it much worse. What does this mean? It means that we must all work to reverse the trend. The press must return to its traditional role as a reporter of facts and events — not agenda or narrative. And people must remember that you can disagree with respect.

I am thankful that, as state representative, I have been able to stem this tide and achieve positive results by listening to all views, researching differing opinions, and finding consensus with my colleagues (on both sides of the aisle.) That is how the system is supposed to work, and it is how I will continue to work if re-elected — both because it is the right thing to do, and because it sets a positive example.


Candidate: Dana Hamp Gulick

  • Party: Democrat.
  • Age: 48.
  • Residence: Manheim Township.
  • Occupation: Advertising account supervisor.
  • Education: University of Pittsburgh, Bachelor of Arts in communication and rhetoric; Bachelor of Arts in German language and literature.
  • Family: Daughter Corinne.

1. Why are you running? What is your pitch to voters?

I am a working single mother, survivor of domestic violence and advocate for families in our community. After growing up with a wealth of opportunities in Manheim Township, earning two college degrees at University of Pittsburgh, marrying and starting a family, I moved to live in paradise in Hawaii.

That paradise soon became a nightmare when after a work injury and multiple surgeries, my husband’s well-concealed mental illness began to reveal itself, aggravated by multiple surgeries and abuse of prescription opioid painkillers.

Eventually he became delusional and dangerous, forcing me to flee with my young daughter, spending nine months in women’s shelters before being flown back to Pennsylvania by a state program for survivors.

When we arrived back in Manheim Township, we had just two suitcases and each other. With the help of the same public benefit programs many of us and our neighbors have relied on at one time or another when the bottom falls out, I was able to rebuild my life and now feel it is my responsibility to use my experience to help others. I am running because I believe that every family can and should be safe, healthy and thriving.

2. What are your priorities to help the state recover from the economic and human toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken?

I think we need to look at the whole picture and ask ourselves what the needs are and how they intersect.

For small businesses, we need financial support to help businesses pay their basic expenses and to retrofit for safety and lenient unemployment standards to support employees out of work.

For working families, we can extend moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, extend unemployment insurance, and institute and support family friendly policies as folks are forced to quarantine after exposures.

Lastly, we hear from everyone we talk to what a struggle affordable health insurance is, and during this time with folks losing their jobs and their health insurance with it, we know this is an urgent need.

I am proposing the creation of a Medicaid buy-in program at the state level tied to negotiated costs. This helps in three primary ways: It’s a public option not tied to employment. It’s lower cost. For those who choose not to buy in, it lowers costs through competition.

3. Can you briefly describe what you would do to address what residents have told us are the issues they are most concerned about: health care, the state budget and school property taxes? Given the 200-word limit, you may choose to respond to a single topic instead of all three.

Medical bills are the number one reason that folks file for bankruptcy. This is unconscionable. You should never have to choose between your health and your home. We don’t need to wait for D.C. to figure it out. We could work to create a state-based public option program tied to Medicaid negotiated costs. I will fight to cap prescription drug prices.

Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom 10 for school funding. A couple of decades ago the state paid about half of our school’s budget, but 30 years of deprioritizing our schools has chipped away at that funding so that it’s now closer to 35%. The burden of making up the rest falls onto our communities through property taxes. To lighten the property tax burden and maintain local control of our schools, we need more funding out of Harrisburg.

As it regards the state budget, there are a lot of options in play for raising needed revenue, including taxes on energy development, closing the Delaware loophole or legalizing marijuana for recreational use as many states have done.

4. Surveys show that partisanship is increasing, and people of different political views are growing less trustworthy of one another. How will you seek to build bridges to voters who don’t support you or share your views?

Although folks in our community may disagree about the means or strategies for addressing different problems we’re facing, we all ultimately want the same things for our families and our neighbors.

I know that we all want our families to be healthy, our communities to be safe, and for all of us to thrive together.

I will continue to lead and problem solve with those values first and foremost, values that everyone in Lancaster County shares, regardless of party.

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