Two candidates seek the Republican nomination to fill the 85th Legislative District seat formerly held by Congressman-elect Fred Keller.
Darwin Swope, of Selinsgrove, and David Rowe, of East Buffalo Township, each announced they’ll ask appointed GOP committee delegates from Snyder and Union counties to choose them to appear on the special election ballot Aug. 20.
A third Republican is considering joining the race for the 85th District, which includes most of Union and Snyder counties. Three Democrats are mulling the special election, too, including last year’s Democratic challenger for Keller’s seat, Jennifer Rager-Kay.
The victor in the special election will serve through the end of 2020.
Swope served as a Legislative Outreach Specialist for Keller for nine years. He described himself as pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment and if elected, pledged to pay half the cost of his health coverage. His priorities are to eliminate property taxes for owner-occupied homes, increase support for Lyme disease and cancer, focus on economic development and set term limits of 12 years for both the state House and Senate.
“Working with Rep. Fred Keller for the past nine years in charge of constituent and municipal services, I am uniquely qualified for this position,” Swope said.
Rowe is a supervisor of East Buffalo Township, the owner of CrossFit Lewisburg and secretary of the Union County Republican Committee. He described himself as a “solid social and fiscal conservative,” said he is pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment, and said he believes in small government and low taxes. He prioritized the protection of “traditional family values and religious liberty.”
“We need stronger economic growth and more family-sustaining jobs, lower taxes, a robust farming community, and less burdensome regulation on small businesses and local municipalities. I will stand up for our conservative values against the liberal Harrisburg lobbyists and insiders who push for bigger, more intrusive, and more expensive government,” Rowe said.
Swope and Rowe may not be alone in seeking their party’s nod.
Benjamin Ranck, Keller’s longtime district office manager, hasn’t formally announced his intentions. Before Swope was the first to announce, there was widespread speculation Ranck would be the party’s presumptive frontrunner. Keller this week said he’d support Ranck should he choose to run.
Ranck said Tuesday he hasn’t made a decision.
No Democrats formally announced candidacy for the special election. However, three party members expressed interest in doing so, according to Tom Spangler, chairman, Snyder County Democratic Committee.
Among those with interest is Rager-Kay, who fell short against Keller last year.
Keller won re-election to the state House but resigned Friday after winning a special election to Congress in the May primary. A swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C., is scheduled for June 3.
Rager-Kay said she’s meeting Friday with leadership from the House Democratic Campaign Committee. With the special election just 12 weeks away, Rager-Kay said she hopes for unanimous local support within the Democratic Committee as well as guidance from state Democratic leaders.
“This isn’t a normal situation. We have a prime opportunity to take the seat back,” Rager-Kay said. “I definitely will not let the seat be run unopposed.”
Depending on their intentions, the winner and those who fall short could find themselves in immediate campaign-mode as a full-term for the 85th District is up for grabs in the 2020 election cycle.
Republicans from both counties meet June 13 to select a nominee.
Carolyn Conner, chair, Union County Republicans, said the two-county delegation will consist of 17 members — nine from Union County, eight from Snyder County. She said Thursday is the party’s deadline to return a list of delegates to be confirmed.
The Democrats haven’t yet scheduled a nomination meeting, Spangler said.