GOP winter dinner launches 2018 election season in Lititz

By on January 17, 2018

The Warwick Area Republican Committee held its winter dinner Jan. 12 at the General Sutter Inn. Many candidates up for reelection attended, including Mindy Fee, Pennsylvania House of Representatives District 37; and Craig Stedman, Lancaster County District Attorney.

By Patrick Burns

A dinner last Friday evening at the General Sutter Inn ushered in the unofficial start of  election season.

Hosted by the Warwick Area Republican Committee, the annual GOP winter dinner followed Republican straw polls in which state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County easily defeated three other GOP candidates for governor.

Nelson Peters, dinner organizer, said the event typically draws area Republican candidates running for reelection, local leaders, representatives from the state committee, and a guest speaker known on the statewide political stage.

Jeff Bartos, this year’s speaker, is a lieutenant governor candidate on an unofficial ticket with Wagner.

Bartos, a Montgomery County Republican who grew up in the Reading area, has close ties to Lancaster County.  He attended Lancaster Country Day School and his daughter will  attend Franklin & Marshall next year.

Prior to the dinner portion of the evening (not open to the media), Bartos said he felt at home.

“I was very happy to be asked to speak a couple weeks ago,” he said. “It’s very easy to say yes to come to Lancaster County.”

Bartos, a small business owner who operates real estate acquisition and development companies, discussed his strategy to defeat Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf in November.

The guest speaker at last week’s WARC winter dinner, Jeff Bartos (left), speaks with Lititz Record Express reporter Patrick Burns. Bartos in November dropped out of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race to join the gubernatorial ticket of state Sen. Scott Wagner.

“I’m running with Scott Wagner, which has never been done before. People have never teamed up this early in the process,” he said.

While running separate campaigns in 2017, the pair met and hit it off.

“He said ‘if you ever consider running for lieutenant governor I’d love to team up’,” Bartos said. “I thought we’d be a terrific team, we come from different backgrounds, we have different skill sets, and we’re both focused primarily on making Pennsylvania the fastest growing state in the country.”

Bartos offered a preview of his speech just before dinner.

He planned to talk about the role of the lieutenant governor, provide some historical background, and quickly hit on two main themes.

One is “that are our Commonwealth, our party, and our nation aren’t nearly as divided as the media would have us believe,” he said.

Bartos mentioned his plan is to construct a message going forward that “unifies our Commonwealth.”

“That message is Pennsylvania should be the fastest growing state in the country and here’s why and here’s how we do it,” he said.

Also attending the dinner were state Rep. Mindy Fee (R-37), state Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36), and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman. All are seeking reelection in the fall.

Fee and Aument noted the achievements made by Lancaster County representatives.

“It really has been an honor to serve,” said Fee, who is in the last year of her third two-year term. “I told people attending the straw poll last night that I’m still so humbled when I walk into the Capital to know I am there to represent 63,000 people.”

The guest speaker at last week’s WARC winter dinner, Jeff Bartos (left), speaks with Warwick Republican Committeeman Nelson Peters (right).

Fee said most of her focus is on communicating “with as many people as I can.”

“I have an open door policy, so when I’m in the district I have people in and out continuously in my offices in Manheim Borough and in Denver Borough,” she said. Being able to “help people on state issues is a wonderful thing.”

Aument, whose local office is in Lititz, said he’ll highlight Lititz and Warwick as examples of success  early on in his campaign for his second four-year term as state senator.

“The greater Warwick/Lititz area can really help point the rest of the state towards the path of economic opportunity, economic prosperity, and economic mobility.”

Aument, who touted his constituency as “strong families, vibrant communities, and outstanding schools,” and the collaboration with the public and private sector (specifically Rock Lititz) “helped create the tremendous economic activity in the Lititz area.”

He is also proud of the Lancaster County contingent’s success in preventing local gambling casinos.

“Lancaster County residents strongly believe that gambling is not the way to build opportunities for society,” Aument said. “There are real social consequences and real economic consequences to expanding gaming.

State Sen. Ryan Aument (left) speaks with Andy Spade (right), newly elected Warwick Township Supervisor. Aument is running for his second four-year term.

Aument, Fee, state Sen. Scott Martin (R-13), and state Reps. David Zimmerman (R-99) and  Steve Mentzer (R-97) — who is also running for re-election but did not attend the dinner — worked closely in 2017 with local municipalities to ensure no mini-casinos were approved in the area.

“I think (casinos) had the potential to change the face of this county in a negative way,” Aument said. “We were very intentional. Sen. Martin and myself reached out to municipalities by letter and by phone to express our views and to ensure municipalities understood the steps they needed to take.”

The senators’ chiefs of staff attended several local meetings to be a resource and answer questions, and “in some cases took (anti-casino) resolutions that municipalities had passed and hand-delivered them to Harrisburg to be sure they got in on a timely manner,” Aument said.

“All of the municipalities across Lancaster County clearly rejected this expanded gaming,” he said. “I think that sends a strong message as we look to future budgets in Harrisburg. It’s not the way. It’s not the way to balance a budget. Not the way to build an opportunity society in Pennsylvania.”

Also attending the dinner was newly elected Warwick Township Supervisor Andy Spade, a former Warwick auditor and the chair of the Warwick Area Republican Committee for six years.

“I thought it was an opportunity to serve my community in a different capacity,” he said of his new position.

Spade, an attorney with the Mejia Law Group in Ephrata, has two children in Warwick School District and considered a run for school board.

“But, since I work for a law firm and do some municipal work, I thought it was a good fit  for me to bring some of those skills to Warwick Township (as supervisor),” he said.

State Sen. Scott Martin (left) speaks with Lancaster County Republican Committee Chairman David Dumeyer.

Spade said WARC has a reorganization meeting coming up where he’ll likely step down as the group’s chairman.

Other notables at the dinner were newly elected Lancaster County Sheriff Chris Leppler; Lancaster County Republican Committee Chairman David Dumeyer, and Lancaster County Commissioners Josh Parsons and Dennis Stuckey.

Conversations among WARC members led to the mention of Gordon Denlinger, who last month sent a letter to the state GOP committee asking for his party’s support for the nomination for lieutenant governor in 2018.

However, Denlinger, 54, of Caernarvon Township, was not in attendance Friday.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at or at 717-721-4455.




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