The 2018 election season is heating up. Candidates are joining races, dropping out, raising money and seeking endorsements.

And the wheels of government, meanwhile, keep on turning.

Here are some updates from the political scene in Lancaster County and beyond.

Replacing Meehan

Rep. Greg Vitali, a 25-year veteran of the state House and environmental advocate from Delaware County, said he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for the 7th Congressional District.

Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan won’t run for a fifth term after it was revealed he quietly settled a workplace sexual harassment complaint with taxpayer money. The district currently includes seven municipalities in eastern Lancaster County.

Another Democratic candidate, information technology consultant Drew McGinty, announced he was ending his campaign, citing fundraising difficulties.

Six Democrats and one Republican are now seeking the seat.

Dem to independent

Lancaster city resident Richard Griffiths Smith Jr., who had said he would run for the 16th Congressional District as a Democrat, announced he will instead run an independent write-in campaign. The move leaves three Democrats — Christina Hartman, Jess King and Gary Wegman — seeking the party’s nomination to face Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker in November.

Meehan money

Christina Hartman, a Democratic candidate in the 16th district, called on U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker to donate $12,000 in campaign contributions he received directly from U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan and from a political committee associated with him.

“It’s time for Smucker to do the right things and send his $12,000 in contributions from Meehan to an organization like YWCA Lancaster, where it can be used to support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence,” Hartman said in a statement.

Campaign kickoffs

More than three months before the May 15 primary, campaign canvassing has already begun in the county. Lancaster Stands Up, the area’s newest grassroots political organization, started its canvassing operation Jan. 27 by gathering nearly 100 volunteers to knock doors for its endorsed congressional candidate, Jess King.

Fetterman visits

Progressive lieutenant governor candidate John Fetterman was in Lancaster in recent weeks, according to a photo that congressional candidate Jess King posted of her with him on Jan. 27. King called Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, her friend who she met when they “were both transforming churches into community centers” in Pittsburgh.

Smucker on solar

In a rare public break with the Trump administration, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker said the president’s move to impose up to 30 percent tariffs on imported solar panels was “misguided.” Smucker said the tariffs could have negative impacts on his Lancaster-based district and the more-than 3,000 solar-related jobs in the state.

Endorsements

By the end of January, candidates in the competitive Democratic congressional primary had each announced several new endorsements.

Christina Hartman got the backing of two new national political organizations — Feminist Majority PAC and Women Under Forty PAC — along with union groups: Central Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters, Transit Workers Union Local No. 234, and United Steelworkers Region 10.

Meanwhile, Jess King got endorsements from Make the Road PA Action, a group that organizes working class Latino immigrants, as well as Democracy for America, a national progressive group.

Hartman and King had previously announced various endorsements through 2017.

Leadership opening

Peach Bottom Republican Bryan Cutler could be in line for state House majority leader next year with the upcoming departure of Rep. Dave Reed, who announced this week he will run for Congress and not seek re-election to his state House seat.

Cutler is in his second term as majority whip and his sixth term representing the 100th District. Reed will stay on as majority leader through the end of the year.

Downsizing

The bill to reduce the size of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, from 203 to 151 members, was voted out of committee Jan. 23 and is being prepared for a vote on the House floor.

It passed both the House and Senate last session and needs to do so again this year before going to a voter referendum. The Lancaster County Republican delegation supports the change.

Abortion bill

State Sen. Scott Martin, R-Martic Township, began circulating a sponsorship memo in the Capitol this week for a bill that would “prohibit the abortion of any child solely due to a diagnosis of possible Down syndrome.”

Martin previously held a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda to discuss the issue.

Emergency response bill

A bill from state Sens. Martin and Ryan Aument, to allow Special Emergency Response Team vehicles to use flashing lights and sirens, passed the Senate this week in a unanimous vote. Senate Bill 1015 is now in the House Transportation Committee.

Straw poll season

Republicans in the county and the state will hold their official endorsement conventions in the next two weeks.

According to the nearly completed straw polls for the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, all incumbents in state delegation seem safe. Only one member, Rep. Brett Miller, of East Hempfield, faced a Republican challenger. And Miller was ahead of Landisville truck driver Brad Witmer with 35 votes to 1 vote.

For the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, former local Rep. Gordon Denlinger was far behind in the straw polls for lieutenant governor, according to PoliticsPA. Denlinger trailed Jeff Bartos — who is aligned with leading gubernatorial contender Scott Wagner — 168 votes to 24 votes heading into next weekend’s endorsement convention.

Not fundraising

Neither of the two lieutenant governor candidates from the county — Republican Gordon Denlinger and Democratic commissioner Craig Lehman — reported raising money in 2017, according to campaign finance reports out this week.

But some of the competitors they face for their parties’ respective nominations raised significant sums. They include Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean, who raised $270,000, and Republican Jeff Bartos, who had $850,000 in his campaign account.

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