Chet Beiler, who lost by 10 percentage points to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker in the Republican primary two years ago, has filed paperwork to run against him again.
Beiler is a longtime Manheim-area businessman and former local Republican leader. He’s also Smucker’s second-cousin, and the pair graduated in the same Lancaster Mennonite High School class.
Their 2016 primary matchup became intensely negative and featured unprecedented levels of spending as each sought to succeed 10-term Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts in the Lancaster County-based district.
Smucker, who was at the tail-end of his two terms in the state Senate, was endorsed in that race by the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, which Beiler had once led as its chairman.
Now seeking his second term, Smucker was again endorsed by the committee in February and earlier today submitted his signatures to run in the new 11th Congressional District.
Beiler, who had not publicly announced he was thinking of running again, filed his signatures about an hour-and-a-half before the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline. He did not return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
According to the Department of State Tuesday, no other Republicans filed, though at least two had been actively gathering signatures — locksmith Bill Neff and Meteorologist Drew Anderson. In video posted to Facebook on Monday, Anderson said he was instead planning to run as an independent.
Beiler, 54, is the CEO of Amish Country Gazebos in Manheim.
As a candidate for elected office before 2016, he was the runner-up in the statewide primary for lieutenant governor in 2010 and was the Republican candidate for auditor general in 2008, losing to Democrat Jack Wagner.
Going up against Smucker, Beiler loaned his campaign more than $634,000 to fund television ads and mailers that criticized Smucker’s record in the state Senate. Smucker in-turn used $400,000 of his own money and more than $345,000 in donations to fight back — including calling out Beiler for an elections code violation in 2001.
Throughout the course of the campaign, Smucker also accused Beiler of potentially illegal tactics to make his donors think Smucker was violating campaign finance laws. Beiler denied being associated with the incident.
Smucker won the April 2016 primary, 55 percent to 45 percent, and went on to defeat Democrat Christina Hartman in November.
The winner of this year’s GOP primary will likely go on to face Democrat Jess King in November. King was the only Democrat to file with the Department of State by the deadline.
The district has also become more Republican-heavy since Beiler last ran, because the new statewide congressional district map changed the districts borders. It now contains all of Lancaster County and southern York County.
Smucker’s campaign spokesman, in a statement responding to Beiler running again, called Beiler a “political opportunist.”
“Meanwhile, Congressman Smucker has been working with President Trump to pass the America First Agenda, passing (the) Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to kick our economy into high gear, fighting for border security and strengthening our national security,” spokesman Mike Barley said.
Beiler did not return a request for comment.