Rogette Harris

Rogette Harris has been following American politics from a young age. As a teenager, she became involved with civil rights issues and became

May 13, 2021
Published on: pennlive
1 min read
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The Dauphin County a ballot sports an array of races for Tuesday's primary election.

This may be an off-year election, but in many parts of Dauphin County it’s off to a running start.

The ballot is packed with an array of candidates for county, municipal, school district and district judge offices for Tuesday’s primary election. The action doesn’t just center on Harrisburg, either, although the ballots for the mayoral, city council and school board races in the city are crammed to bursting.

While Rogette Harris, the chairwoman of the county Democratic Committee, and her GOP counterpart David Feidt are usually at odds in the political sense, they are in agreement on one thing.

One of the most important races on Tuesday’s ballot is the battle for a single county judge seat, both party leaders said.

“That’s definitely a big one,” Feidt said, especially since, as all but one of the four judicial candidates have cross-filed to appear on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, the county’s next judge could conceivably be chosen by the voters during the primary.

Vying for the 10-year judge post are attorneys Bryan McQuillan, Jeff Engle and Kathryn Waters and La Tasha C. Williams, an assistant district attorney for York County. All but Waters have cross-filed to appear on both the GOP and Democratic ballots. Waters will appear only on the Democratic ballot.

Harris tapped the Swatara Township commissioner race as another biggie. There, Supervisor Tom Connolly is in a fight on the Democratic ballot with Wayne Scott and Danielle Spriggs for two seats on the board.

One of the hardest-fought primary races in the region is the 5-way contest for Harrisburg mayor. Incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse, is seeking a third —and what he says would be his final — term, but is being challenged by: City Council President Wanda Williams; former city Councilman Otto Banks; retired media executive Dave Schankweiler; and Kevyn Knox, the general manager of the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center. The sole candidate on the Republican ballot is businessman Timothy Rowbottom.

The race is setting a record for spending in a city mayor’s contest, with donors to the various campaigns pumping more than $500,000 into the battle.

The candidates have met in a variety of forums to debate topics ranging from police reforms and affordable house, to how to spend millions of dollars coming to Harrisburg as a result of pandemic relief bills.

The city council race is a tussle on the Democratic side as well, with 13 candidates vying for four open seats. Sitting council members Shamaine Daniels and Ausha Green are seeking re-election. They are challenged by advocate Lavet Henderson, Harrisburg School Board member Carrie Fowler, former school director Roy Christ, law student Vishal Bajpai, Uptown resident Lori Ann Beamer-Saulisbury, personal care company CEO Crystal Davis, activist Sara Gethers, entrepreneur and former city police officer Jennie Jenkins-Dallas, real estate entrepreneur Robert Lawson, teacher Jocelyn Rawls and community advocate Ralph Rodriguez.

Eight candidates are competing for four four-year seats on the Harrisburg School Board. Ezra Match will appear on the GOP and Democratic ballots while the others are listed only on the Democratic ballot. Incumbents Brian Carter and Danielle Robinson are seeking new terms. The other hopefuls are Jorge Collazo, Mary Simpson, Roslyn Copeland, Jaime Johnsen and Michael Balsbaugh.

Another highlight, according to Feidt, is the battle for the Central Dauphin School Board.

All three regions of Central Dauphin School District have primary contests. In Region One, where two seats are open, incumbent Billy Roberts, and candidates Louis Motley and Janelle Bingaman are cross-filed to be on both ballots while Stephen Roth will appear only on the Republican ballot. Region Two features a cross-filed fight between incumbent Eric Epstein and Challenger Mike Betz for a single seat. In Region Three, incumbent Justin Warren is vying with Jeff Gordon and Michael Siget for the lone open spot. All three are cross-filed.

There are contests for every district judge seat up for election in the county as well, Feidt noted.

Incumbent Paul T. Zozos is facing challenger Amechie Walker Jr. on the Democratic ballot for his Harrisburg seat. In the other DJ seat up for grabs in Harrisburg, there is a Democratic race among incumbent Sonya McKnight and Ellis Roy, Jennifer Smallwood, Sha’kira Jennings, Anthony Harrell, Brianna Smith and Leon Wilkerson II. McKnight is currently suspended from office while awaiting prosecution on criminal charges that include official oppression.

Marian Urrutia and Greg Mills are cross-filed for the seat serving Susquehanna Township and Penbrook. Incumbent Kenneth Lenker is facing a cross-filed challenge from Ian Castaneira for the DJ post in Swatara Township and Steelton and Highspire.

Lower Paxton Township DJ William Wenner is in a cross-filed contest with Pamela Thompson. Judge Dominic Pelino is challenged for his Derry Township and Hummelstown seat by Scott Yoder and Jaime Wetzel. Pelino and Wetzel are cross-filed. Yoder is only on the Republican ballot.

All four candidates – Dale Klein, Hanna Suhr, Todd Johnson and Dan Robinson – are cross-filed in the race for the DJ seat serving East, South and West Hanover townships.

Incumbent Kenneth Lenker is facing a cross-filed challenge from Ian Castaneira for the DJ post in Swatara Township and Steelton and Highspire.

READ MORE: Here’s what Harrisburg City Council’s 13 Democratic candidates say about 3 of its key issues