Residents in Lebanon and parts of Dauphin and York counties will vote in a special election on Jan. 14, 2020 to choose a successor for former state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-48, who resigned last week after being charged with possession of child pornography.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Wednesday morning signed the writ calling for the special election, according to a press release from his office.
“The necessity of this election was born out of the tragedy of alleged exploitation of children,” Fetterman said in a statement. “There should be no political angling in determining when or how this election will be held. The people of the 48th deserve representation as soon as possible.”
The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Folmer’s term, which expires in 2022.
State statute requires special elections to be held 60 days after an elected official leaves office. Since Folmer resigned from the Senate on Sept. 18, the earliest an election could be held to fill his vacant seat is mid-November.
However, Fetterman had to delay the special election to accommodate general elections scheduled for Nov. 5, where candidates in the 48th district will compete in municipal and county-wide races.
State law requires all voting machines to be locked after a general election for at least 20 days, and longer if there are contested results, according to Fetterman’s spokesperson Christina Kauffman.
“If we were to have any precincts [in the 48th district] contest something, we would have a problem,” Kauffman said Tuesday. “This gives us a bit of a buffer.”
Members of the state Democratic and Republican parties have yet to choose their candidates to replace Folmer, who quickly lost the support of his party after the state Attorney General’s office announced the charges against him last week.
But his sudden resignation is unlikely to jeopardize the Republicans’ majority in the General Assembly’s upper chamber, since Republican voters comprise half of the total registered voter population in the 48th district. Without Folmer, the GOP holds 26 seats in the state Senate.
The district is home to 82,000 registered Republicans, 56,000 Democrats, and 25,000 registered independents, data from the Department of State show.
Folmer is the third Republican state Senator to resign this year. Sens. Don White, R-41, and Richard Alloway, R-33, each resigned for personal reasons in January. Both were replaced by Republican candidates in special elections in May.