Craig Lehman

Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman

Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman announced his primary campaign for Lancaster County’s most vulnerable Republican seat, currently filled by Sen. Scott Martin, R-Martic Twp.

Lehman is joining a growing field of Martin’s Democratic challengers, including Millersville Borough council member Dianne Bates and Lancaster city council member Janet Diaz, who hope to capitalize on this district’s political changes.

Martin’s district is likely the most moderate in the county’s Republican stronghold, according to recent election results. Former congressional candidate Jess King gathered 88 more votes in the district than U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker in the 2018 congressional election. More recently, Democrats have made strides in the suburbs, flipping the Manheim Township Board of Supervisors and School Board blue in the November election.

For now, Lehman said he is only looking to gain the Lancaster County Democratic Committee’s nomination in next year’s endorsement convention. He earlier told LNP he was considering the run, and announced Monday he would seek the office after consulting his family and local organizations.

“Hopefully I will be successful there, and I’ll work hard for the Democratic nomination,” Lehman added. “There’s going to be plenty of time to talk about issues and why I think I’m the best candidate.”

In November, state Sen. John Yudichak of Luzerne County switched parties from Democrat to Independent and began sitting in on Republican meetings. This means Democrats need to win four seats to gain a majority in the state Senate, with Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as the tie-breaking vote.

Democrats are now focusing their efforts to Martin’s seat as a “must-win” category, plus other priority seats in Erie, Harrisburg and Delaware County, the Associated Press reported last month.

Lancaster’s delegation in the General Assembly has only one Democrat -- Rep. Mike Sturla -- who represents the solidly blue Lancaster city. The 13th Senatorial District includes Lancaster city.

Prior to taking office, Martin served on the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners alongside Lehman. Martin served two terms as a county commissioner before announcing in 2014 he would not seek another term. Martin then worked in the private sector for a year, before getting elected as a senator to fill U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s old spot.

Lehman was just reelected in November to serve his third four-year term. He said he will continue to serve as commissioner, unless he’s elected state senator, then he would resign.

Lehman emphasized his commitment to “sound fiscal management” in a prepared statement.

Lehman published his announcement on his “County Commissioner Craig Lehman” Facebook and Twitter, where he represents himself as a commissioner. He said he uses these social media accounts as personal accounts where he posts personal, political and county-related information. Neither page is linked to a county website.

Martin’s campaign declined to comment.

Martin announced his re-election bid Saturday through a press release, touting his past legislation, like a ban on video gaming terminals in the county, and several bills aimed at improving student safety and attendance.

JoAnn Hentz, the local Democratic Party chair, said the party must wait until after the endorsement convention to comment on a candidate.

Although Lehman is still awaiting to go through the local party’s nomination process, he said: “If I’m fortunate enough to be Democratic nominee for the office of state senator, I look forward to a spirited debate with Sen. Martin."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Martin's path to becoming a state senator from a commissioner. He finished out his term as commissioner before campaigning for state Senate.