First Smucker-King debate in the books

By on October 10, 2018

Civility ruled among a crowd of about 50 watching the live feed of 11th Congressional district candidates debate at Ephrata Public Library Exploratorium Monday.

The event, between incumbent Republican Lloyd Smucker and Jess King, a Democrat newcomer, enthralled the local audience watching the debate broadcast from Millersville University.
The 90-minute debate was sponsored by LNP Media and livestreamed from its Facebook page. The Lititz Record Express and The Ephrata Review hosted the remote broadcast. Topics discussed included guns, taxes, heathcare, immigration and “the wall.”

When the debate ended at 8:30, Andy Fasnacht, who edits the two newspapers, moderated an open exchange with the audience. As a microphone passed from speaker to speaker, it became apparent that most of the attendees were Jess King supporters. Through email and phone contacts, both candidates’ organizations had been invited to attend the livestream event.

King has been running a full-time campaign for more than a year while Smucker has, of course, been spending much of his time in Washington. King’s efforts have energized the local Democrats who are outnumbered by about 100,000 more registered Republican voters in the 11th Congressional district.

There may have been a few Republicans in the audience, but only one said he planned to vote for Smucker. Bruce Boydell is a navy veteran, collects Social Security and owns a consulting business in Ephrata.

“I came here to get more information about both candidates,” he said. “I know where I stand politically and socially. and on economic issues, and probably differ from many of you. I came away from the debate feeling like we have two fundamentally good people running for that position. The country will be in good shape no matter who wins, although I recognize Representative Smucker has party advantage.

“One thing that made me appreciate Jess King was the fact that she said she wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi to continue as Speaker of the House. Her stock with me went up.”
A few of the Democrats in the room applauded his sentiment.

With Republican presence at the Ephrata livestream event almost non-existent, King supporter, Steve Wandewincke, expressed the hope that voter turnout on Nov. 6 would mirror the Exploratorium experience.

Janice Eberly, Ephrata’s second ward Democratic chair, spoke in favor of Jess King.


Kelly Morgano was the first to speak after the Smucker-King debate, but she was not the last to speak out for King.


Bruce Boydell got to his feet in a room full of Democratic supporters for Jess King. He said he plans to vote for the incumbent Lloyd Smucker. Boydell was warmly received. He really was.


Greg Looney is concerned about his 25-year-old son who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was five. He’s concerned about his son’s 26th birthday, when he will no longer be covered by his parent’s health insurance.


Cuban-born Marlene Looney came to the U.S. in 1966. She gave an emotional speech in which she said healthcare should be a country’s moral obligation.


On a trip to Canada two years ago, Akron’s John Ebersole said a health issue put him into a Canadian hospital for 20 days. He said he was well treated under the country’s public health care system.

Healthcare was the most often mentioned issue in the after-debate meeting. Akronite John Ebersole, who was a Republican when we talked to him a few months back, thinks U.S. residents should think twice about demonizing Canada’s public healthcare system, which goes by the name of Medicare.

Two years ago, on a visit to Canada Ebersole had a health issue that put him into a Canadian hospital for 20 days. He got good care, he said. He was in a room with four other patients, which wasn’t as convenient as U.S. patients are accustomed to. “It wasn’t Cadillac care,” he said, “but it was good care that was overseen by a registered nurse.”

Marlene Looney, who came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1966, has a 25-year-old son with Type 1 diabetes. She said healthcare issues help define our national morals, and who we are as a nation. And she noted that the Cuban system of free healthcare for all of its 11 million citizens has a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. Her husband, Greg Looney, expressed concern about his son’s 26th birthday, when his diabetes care will no longer be covered by his parents’ health insurance.

A big portion of the debate in Millersville revolved around King’s position that Medicare for all is something the country needs, and Smucker’s insistence that it would be prohibitively expensive.
King stuck to her stance, a fact that Ronnie Sakamoto, a Hawaiian-born Lititz resident, appreciated. Sakamoto, said she was leaning towards King before she witnessed the debate, but seemed firmly in the King court after the Millersville connection closed. “She stuck to her points and she didn’t bash Smucker,” she said. “I was very impressed with her tonight.”

There were a few points where King could have bashed, when traces of the vitriol afflicting national politics seeped–but didn’t pour–into Monday’s debate. Most notable were Smucker’s comments about what he described as King’s socialist agenda. Smucker also made a disparaging remark about King’s education, noting that while he didn’t have her MBA, he knew how to sign a paycheck.

King responded that as the CEO of a number of nonprofits over the years she was well acquainted with signing paychecks, and said the socialist label was disingenuous name calling.
As questions from the audience wore down after about 45 minutes, Fasnacht noted similarities between the two opponents. Smucker born and raised in an Amish family, King a life-long Mennonite. Both graduated from Lancaster Mennonite High School and believe they’re probably related by blood.

They both said the immigration system is not working, with King mostly favoring compassionate solutions and Smucker more in favor of enforcement, but they share the belief that Dreamers should not be penalized.

“It should be possible,” Fasnacht said, “for candidates to like some things about their opponents, while not liking other things. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.” Their debate was livestreamed &tstr; televised live on Facebook &tstr; by LNP Media and Lancaster Online from Millersville University. The debate was moderated by LNP Media Community Liason Barbara Roda and Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Tom Baldridge.

Tickets for the actual debate were claimed within hours of the announced date and time. Penny Talbert, the library’s executive director responded with an immediate “Yes” to the suggestion that the Exploratorium serve as a place for local voters to watch the televised 90-minute debate, then hang around afterwards to talk about what the candidates talked about.

Rebecca Lawrence, the library’s manager of public and outreach programs, said the event was an example of the kind of community event the library hopes to attract more of to the Exploratorium.

Dick Wanner is a staff reporter-photographer for the Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *