Veteran Lebanon County prosecutor chosen as Republican nominee for 48th District special election

By: - October 19, 2019 2:59 pm

Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold and his wife, Alicia, after Arnold was chosen as the Republican nominee in a special election for the 48th senate district.

ANNVILLE, Pa. — Lebanon County’s four-term district attorney has been tapped as the Republican candidate to run in a January special election to replace a senator who resigned last month amid child porn charges. 

David Arnold, of South Lebanon Township, netted 50 of the 72 votes from Republican conferees who met for two hours Saturday morning to choose their nominee for the 48th Senate District, which includes Lebanon County, and parts of Dauphin and York counties. 

Democrats from the district will meet Sunday to choose their candidate for the seat formerly held by ex-Sen. Mike Folmer, who resigned in September. The two voting meetings take the place of a primary race when a lawmaker resigns mid-term and must be replaced in a special election.

Arnold is expected to sail to an easy victory at the Jan. 14 special election. Republicans have held the seat for 50 years. It’s home to 58,000 registered Democrats, 84,000 Republicans, and 25,000 independents, voter registration data from the Department of State show.

Nine candidates initially sought the Republican nomination for the seat. But only five of them secured the support of conferees and were eligible to receive votes during  Saturday’s session on the campus of Lebanon Valley College. 

Arnold handily defeated those four other contenders, including Matt Brouilette, former president of the Commonwealth Foundation, a right-wing think tank based in Harrisburg that advocates against government regulation and taxation.

A cadre of sitting state lawmakers announced their support on Friday for Brouilette, who received 20 votes from conferees at Saturday’s nomination meeting. State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, received two votes.

Evangelical activist Jack Hamlett and York County businessman Tom Ryan did not receive any votes. 

Arnold’s victory on Saturday served as confirmation for some Republican activists in Lebanon County that the nomination process was stacked in the district attorney’s favor. 

Republican voters and some candidates for the GOP nomination say county Republican Committee chairman Casey Long single handedly chose the conferees who would vote at  Saturday’s conference, and accused him of filling the ranks with Republicans who would vote for Arnold. 

‘This was a sham’: Lebanon Co. Republicans say party boss poisoned special election candidate selection

They say the process Long followed violated state party bylaws. And they raised their concern in an email to state party chair Lawrence Tabas this week. 

But an investigation by the statewide GOP found that Long complied with county and state bylaws, according to Rebecca Warren, the state party’s Election Day Operations Counsel. 

Arnold also dismissed the allegations of favoritism on Saturday.

“It’s definitely been a contentious race from certain standpoints, but not from me,” Arnold said. “I spent my entire campaign process talking about the things that I believe I can do for our communities. I haven’t spent my campaign time talking about other candidates.”

When he announced his candidacy in September, Arnold sold himself as a “consistent conservative” who would use his Senate seat to restrict abortion access, protect gun rights, and relieve property taxes for Pennsylvanians. After securing the nomination Saturday, he told reporters that property tax reform would be a chief focus of his in Harrisburg.

Arnold has been Lebanon County’s top law enforcement agent since 2006, and previously served as the president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. He will remain in that post as he campaigns for the special election, he said Saturday, and will be replaced by a deputy if he wins in January. 

Arnold is poised to take a significant pay cut if hometown voters choose him as their next state senator. He earned $177,000 as District Attorney in 2017, a rate that is set by state law, data from the York Daily Record show. Annual salaries for rank-and-file lawmakers currently stands at $88,600, according to the PennWatch salary database. 

Arnold said on Saturday that salary has never been a factor in his career as a public servant, but said he would “explore” options to maintain a private law practice if he is elected as a senator. 

“I sincerely appreciate the ability to be a public servant, [and] I’ve done it for many years now,” Arnold said after Saturday’s meeting. “I look forward to taking that public service to Harrisburg and doing it on an even larger scale.”

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.