Though info was short, Hummelstown voters made their picks in GOP state House primary

By: - June 2, 2020 5:47 pm

HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. — It doesn’t matter if you live in the eastern or western half of this small borough in between Harrisburg and Hershey — everyone votes at the Hummelstown firehouse.

Around 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, the judges of election for the municipality’s two precincts reported average turnout — as well as a combined 393 mail-in votes.

Western precinct judge of elections Gwen Adams noted confusion from Gov. Tom Wolf’s temporary deadline extension for mail-in voters in six counties, including Dauphin County, home to Hummelstown. 

Wolf announced Monday that ballots postmarked on election day would still count if they were received by 8 p.m. June 9.

Adams said voters “were not prepared” for the new deadline, which also impacted the much larger Pittsburgh and Philadelphia due to Black Lives Matter protests, and weren’t clear on the need to still mail ballots Tuesday..

She added that voters also didn’t understand the new mail-in rules. Some tried to vote in person despite voting requesting a mail-in ballot. Such votes can only cast a provisional ballot — a different process, with more paperwork, Adams noted.

Still, no one has gotten angry despite the confusion, Adams said, “which is really nice when you think about it.”

A key race in this small town is the Republican primary in the 106th state House District. The seat is currently held by GOP Rep. Tom Mehaffie, who has voted against regulatory rollbacks and backed Wolf’s infrastructure plan. He faces two primary challengers — Mimi Legro and Chris Lupp.

Legro is a local township commissioner and former Patriot-News restaurant critic. Lupp is a local school board member.

Three voters leaving the fire station told the Capital-Star they voted for Mehaffie.

“I like ‘em, I’ve met him, I’ve talked to him,” said one voter. He did not elaborate.

Darcy Thompson, another Hummelstown voter, added that he found it “hard to find good information” on the race. She hadn’t been aware of any forums involving the candidates, for example.

She also ended up voting for Mehaffie because of his “voting record,” but could not identify a specific vote she liked.

Steve Groff, a 60-year-old Republican Hummelstown voter, also found researching the candidates difficult. 

He ended up voting for Legro based on campaign mailers and the radio, which left him with the impression that Mehaffie sides with Wolf “habitually.”

Still, he hoped that there was a better way to dig up information on the race.

“If we’re going to get honest elections … somehow, we have to edit out the lies,” he said. For example, he cited legal repercussions for publicly lying.

Just after pulling the lever for Legro, Groff met her for the first time outside the fire station. Legro initially declined an interview request from the Capital-Star, but consented after approaching the reporter.

Legro said she thought she would win, but added that the halt to in-person campaigning hurt her odds. She did knock doors this weekend with Dauphin County beginning to reopen.

“I was looking forward to a debate, but we never had it,” she said. 

She added that she thought she would be the more conservative lawmaker, pointing to union funding for Mehaffie’s campaign.

The race has attracted $250,000 in campaign finance donations, split nearly evenly between Legro and Mehaffie, according to Press and Journal, the local newspaper, — including more than $100,000 to Legro from the conservative Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.