Jessica King

Jessica King, executive director of Assets.

Local nonprofit leader Jessica King is joining the growing list of Lancaster County Democrats who intend to challenge U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker in 2018.

King, executive director of the economic development organization Assets, said Tuesday she will run for the Democratic nomination because of what she views as eroding support of the middle class.

“I have focused my entire career on fighting for working people and working communities,” said King, 43, of Lancaster city. “But honestly when it comes down to it, it hasn't been enough. And it feels like federal policies that impact working people are just going in the wrong direction over and over.”

With the primary still nearly a year away, King is the third Democrat to join what will potentially be a crowded field motivated by frustrations with President Donald Trump’s administration.

By this time in the last election cycle, former 10-term U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts had not yet announced his plans to retire and no candidates had come forward to run against him.

Three Democrats eventually launched campaigns and only one — nonprofits consultant Christina Hartman — made it onto the primary ballot.

Smucker, a West Lampeter Republican, has not officially said whether he will run for re-election, though he has continued fundraising. No other Republicans have entered the race.

King, who has never run for public office, said she didn’t anticipate running for Congress until some members of the community approached her with the idea after last November’s election. Ultimately, she said she decided to jump in to “help change the conversation.”

That conversation, she said, should include a “Medicare for all” health care system and tuition-free or very low tuition community colleges and state colleges. It should also include more support for workforce-driven institutions like Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and further investments in small businesses and childcare, she said.

Considering the district’s large Puerto Rican community, King said another priority of hers would be to advocate for more U.S. support for the Puerto Rican debt crisis — along with allowing it to become a state if that’s what its residents want.

In her role with Assets, which she has led since 2010, King is in charge of an 11-member, $1 million budget organization that offers small business microloans, social enterprise training, programs for women’s leadership initiatives and more in its mission to create economic opportunity and foster entrepreneurship.

She also serves in several other community initiatives, including the 12-member Lancaster Coalition to Combat Poverty. She said she will remain part-time at Assets through August and then take a leave of absence to campaign.

Two others Democrats — John George, of Lititz, and Charles Klein, of Manheim Township — announced in May they will also run for the party’s nomination.

George, 56, is a former Warwick School District superintendent who is now executive director of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. Klein, 43, is a pharmacist who ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat last year.

Hartman, who lost to Smucker last November, has said she is considering running in the district again.

The 16th Congressional District covers most of Lancaster County as well as parts of Berks and Chester counties. Its voter registration makeup last November was 45 percent Republican, 39 percent Democratic and 16 percent independent or third party.