Lancaster County GOP primaries will test how much the grassroots has veered from state party leaders | PA Power and Policy

Two stalwarts of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly and Republican Party are facing candidates buoyed by a grassroots anger among conservatives regarding the 2020 presidential election, public education and a general sense of political corruption.

Rep. Bryan Cutler, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House, is being challenged by Anne Weston for the 100th District seat, which covers much of the southern half of the county. In the 36th Senate District, which covers much of the northern half of the county, Sen. Ryan Aument, a member of his party’s leadership, is running against Mike Miller, a financial planner from Ephrata.

Both Weston and Miller were involved with Audit the Vote PA, a grassroots conservative group committed to Trump’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 election. And both are backed by another upstart group of conservatives, FreePA.

It’s unclear if the grassroots fervor in the GOP for more anti-establishment candidates will carry into these two statehouse races.

Weston and Miller have both avoided reporters and questions on their policy positions and claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Regarding the 36th Pennsylvania Senate district race, Miller hung up on a reporter who called last summer to ask about his involvement in Audit the Vote PA’s canvass of a few hundred Lancaster County voters, and he did not reply to recent attempts to contact him. His public remarks and online messaging show he views mainstream media as hostile to conservatives.

Aument, by comparison, has appeared at public events where he answered journalists’ questions, and he has spoken with reporters by phone on numerous occasions.

He preliminarily said he intended to participate but later declined. In declining, he agreed that “voters would benefit from the question and answer with your panel and audience.” But, he said, Miller “has been quite aggressive in using previous public comments I have made against me by twisting phrases, taking incomplete quotes out of context, and dishonestly altering what I have said. I am very hesitant to provide him another opportunity to do just that… . Respectfully and regrettably I must decline your invitation.”

Miller never responded to the forum invitation or to a simple questionnaire sent to every candidate running in a contested primary.

In the 100th House district race, Weston has not returned calls or emails from LNP | LancasterOnline regarding her claims of election fraud in 2020.

Miller and Weston, with their grassroots bona fides, also haven’t raised much money for their campaigns.

Miller’s first campaign finance report, filed at the end of March, presented a very different picture, first in its multitude of mathematical errors and, more significantly, in the small amount it showed he’d raised. Those errors were rectified in an amended report after they were brought to his campaign’s attention by LNP|LancasterOnline.

His May 2 filing showed greater income. It showed that Miller had loaned his campaign $25,000, and that he’d raised another $28,000 from individual contributors, including $10,000 from Kenneth and Vicki Shoap of Franklin County. He had just under $14,000 cash on hand as of May 2.

Cutler’s campaign warchest had almost $100,000 in it on May 2. And as a co-founder with Aument of the Building a Better PA PAC, he has access to tens of thousands more raised from wealthy individuals and PACs.

Weston’s fundraising report showed she had raised just under $17,000 since launching her campaign, with much of that coming from family members. Toni Shuppe, the founder of Audit the Vote PA, is listed as a donor, giving $50 on April 28, while Elaine Herring, a local volunteer with Shuppe’s group, listed as giving $200 on April 26.

98th House district

In the 98th Pennsylvania House district, which includes parts of northwest Lancaster County, an open seat has drawn three candidates vying to replace the retiring state Rep. Dave Hickernell.

The three-way race for the open seat is between Lu Ann Fahndrich, a Mount Joy Borough council member and longtime state House staffer; Tom Jones, a business owner, East Donegal Township supervisor and the Donegal GOP area chairman; and Faith Bucks, the owner of a chiropractic practice and a South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, supervisor, who is also a former legislative aide.

All three of the candidates in the 98th received traditional endorsements from GOP elected officials in Pennsylvania.

Fahndrich received Hickernell’s endorsement.

Bucks, of the 2700 block of Horseshoe Pike in Palmyra, South Londonderry Township, has been endorsed by the Lebanon County GOP and U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, a Republican representing Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District. She has also been recommended by state Rep. Frank Ryan of and state Sen. Chris Gebhard, both of Lebanon County.

Jones, of the 100 block of Saddleback Drive in Marietta, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails for this story.

He is backed by several conservatives in Lancaster County, including county Commissioner Ray D’Agostino.

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