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In the county’s most competitive race, first-term state Sen. Scott Martin faces Lancaster city Councilmember Janet Diaz.

This district — which includes Lancaster city and the suburbs and rural areas comprising the southern half of the county — began trending in Democrats’ direction after Martin won four years ago. In 2018, for example, the portion of Martin’s district that lies within the larger 11th Congressional District went narrowly for the Democratic candidate over the GOP incumbent, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker.

Democratic Party campaign committees see the 13th District as an opportunity to flip a GOP-held seat and help the party regain a Senate majority. High interest and spending by both parties has resulted in a flood of direct mail advertising to district homes, as well as TV advertisements and an aggressive paid social media campaign by Diaz.

Diaz was the underdog winner in the June primary over Craig Lehman, a moderate Democrat and a county commissioner. Leh-man was endorsed by the Lancaster County Democratic Committee, but Diaz won the party’s nomination with a campaign stressing more liberal positions. She would be the first Latina elected to the state Senate.

During his first term in the Senate, much of the legislation Martin introduced focused on advocating for students and young people. These include a pediatric cancer research tax credit, greater protections for sexual assault survivors in K-12 schools, and pushing to lift COVID-19 restrictions that prevent families from attending school sporting events. The Pennsylvania Family Council also applauded Martin in several campaign mailers for his support of bans on transgender bathroom usage and a bill he sponsored to prevent women from having an abortion on the basis of the child’s potential Down syndrome diagnosis (which was later vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf).

Diaz, an insurance registrar for stroke patients at Lancaster General Health, is a relative newcomer to politics, running her first campaign for city council just five years ago. Her progressive platform includes creating a basic health care plan for all Pennsylvanians that includes better access to mental health care and lower prescription drug prices. Her preferred approach is to create a statewide health insurance marketplace modeled on the Affordable Care Act and Ohio’s prescription drug price cost cap, she said.

“The health care insurance industry is complicated, but it should be easy,” Diaz said. “For the state, we have the power to get basic health care where people can go to the doctors and afford that minimum out-of-pocket expense instead of paying thousands of dollars.”

During his first term in the Senate, Martin supported bipartisan legislation to reduce prescription drug costs to residents by eliminating the state’s “generic medicine gag rule.” This rule had required pharmacists not to tell a patient whether it would be cheaper to pay out of pocket than use insurance or switch to generic drugs.

As of mid-September, Martin reported raising $212,000 for his campaign, including several large donations from other GOP senators’ campaigns. He spent nearly $150,000 on campaign mailers and contributions to other political committees, such as the Republican Committee of Lancaster County.

Diaz has not filed campaign expenses since June and is not required to submit another filing until Oct. 23, according to the Department of State. Her campaign declined to show LNP | LancasterOnline how much she has raised and spent since then. As of her last filing, Diaz had raised about $5,000, but her campaign said she has raised more money since, and the proof of that can be seen in her campaign’s advertising and direct-mail blitz.

Despite significant policy differences, much of the race centers on Diaz’s claim that Martin does not understand what it’s like to struggle. Diaz said she grew up in a single-parent home and knows what it’s like to be hungry or to sleep on the streets. Martin’s response is that he grew up poor as the oldest sibling of nine, and he said his empathy for vulnerable populations influences his views on policy.

The campaigns have exchanged multiple attack ads since the primary. Both candidates said the other’s allegations — such Martin’s labeling of Diaz as a socialist who opposes law enforcement (she noted that her family includes several police officers), or Diaz’s assertion that Martin opposed improving the state’s health care system and did not support farmland preservation (Martin is endorsed by the FARMER political action committee, supported by members of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau) — are unfounded.

“The people I serve know me; they know my record, and they know I always put Lancaster County first because it is my lifelong home and has given me every opportunity to succeed in life,” Martin said. “I trust the people of Lancaster County to see through the lying attacks from my opponent and her special interest backers who aren’t from our community or even our state.”

This story has been updated to reflect that Martin was endorsed by FARMER PAC, which is supported by members of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. The bureau does not make endorsements.