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By thin margins, with candidates tailing each other all night, two York Republican primary challengers appear to have bucked the odds and ousted two of York County's most tenured and recognized politicians.
With all precincts reporting, Wendy Fink and Joe D'Orsie beat incumbent Reps. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, and Keith Gillespie, R-Hellam Township, according to results posted by the York County Board of Elections.
In the 94th House race, Fink took 5,408 votes to Saylor's 4,300.
"I am very honored to be able to have run in the first place," Fink said. "I've been blessed with a really good team from the community, fantastic support from the people. This this victory really belongs to the people. They came out. They made their voices heard. They demanded change, and I look forward to serving them in any way that I can."
In the 47th House race, D'Orsie took 5,156 votes and Gillespies brought in 3,469.
"I got into this not because I had an axe to grind or because I was feeling ambitious," D'Orsie said. "I believe I'm called by God, and I believe that was confirmed last night. And the the team around me, I wouldn't even be in this position without their sacrifice and their time and their hard work."
Incumbent Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, held the 169th House seat against challenger Matthew Smith, with Klunk taking more than 80% of the vote.
Rep. Mike Jones, R-York Township, made the unusual and controversial decision to endorse the newcomers before the primary, choosing them over the 30- and 20-year incumbents Saylor and Gillespie, respectively.
York County Republican Party Chair Jeff Piccola was outraged by those endorsements and sought to have Jones censured by the party last week. The party declined to do so and Piccola resigned his position within minutes of the polls closing on Tuesday.
"After seeing the Harrisburg-funded hit machine spend literally over $500,000 attacking these two Republican challengers with unrelenting, false attacks in the mail, on radio and TV, I could not stay silent any longer," Jones said in an op-ed provided to the York Daily Record. "I understand politics is a rough and tumble game but outright smears and lies need to be called out and the voters deserve to know the facts."
Jones said Saylor and Gillespie did not fight against the state lockdowns imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf during the height of the pandemic and did not push for election reform. He said they falsely advertise pro-life values and he disagreed with their votes on a 2017 bill to force state workers on to a 401k, removing their pensions.
"Wendy Fink and Joe D’Orsie are the real deal," Jones wrote. "Their leadership and work ethic have been nothing short of incredible as they have led two of the finest campaigns in York County history. They are conservative citizens who will decline the pension, fight for our county and bring fresh new conservative voices that Harrisburg desperately needs."
Piccola called the endorsement a "shameful act of betrayal" saying he "slapped every member of the York County Republican Committee in the face as we are and have supported both of these fine seasoned legislators."
Fink and D'Orsie are essentially guaranteed the positions as their candidacies are uncontested by the Democratic Party. Klunk will face off against Democrat Isaac Riston in November.
Where they stand
The 94th District covers Chanceford, Lower Chanceford, Windsor, Lower Windsor, Peach Bottom and sections of Springettsbury Townships as well as Delta, East Prospect, Felton, Red Lion, Windsor and Yorkana Boroughs.
Saylor has held office for the district since 1992 and most recently faced off against Democrat Stephen Snell in 2018, receiving 66.4% of the vote.
Saylor has lived in York County his whole life, residing in Windsor Township. With 30 years of experience under his belt, he is a member of multiple York-focused groups such as the York County Task Force on Domestic Violence, the Child Abuse Prevention Council of York Inc., and the Healthy York County Coalition.
Fink has lived in York County her whole life, primarily being raised in Red Lion. With a background in education, and homeschooling, she does not bring a long political history to the table but was disappointed by how the Republican leaders handled the pandemic in the last few years. She believes she will be able to put her foot down in office and try to oppose bills and mandates she deems unconstitutional, such as lockdowns and governmental overreaches.
Saylor said while in office he has fought liberal policies, voting against tax hikes from Wolf and speaking out against shutdowns. He said he is focusing on CRT and championing pro-life causes.
Fink said the main problem facing Pennsylvanians is the lack of trust in the election process, and without confidence in the system, the government will not be able to function well.
The 47th District covers the boroughs of Hallam, Manchester, Mount Wolf, North York, Wrightsville and York Haven, the townships of Conewago, East Manchester, Hellam, Manchester and sections of Springettsbury.
Gillespie, who has held office since 2002, was a paramedic at Memorial Hospital, eventually serving as the director of safety, security and pre-hospital systems at the location.
He most recently faced off against Democrat Michael Wascovich in 2018, receiving 64.4% of the vote.
D'Orsie, was born and raised in York County, currently residing in Mt. Wolf. A communications director at Praise Community Church in East York.
D'Orsie takes pride in not coming from a political background, saying he will bring a more grounded and relatable angle to his work.
Gillespie said the biggest issue facing Pennsylvania is the price of gas, rising inflation and economic problems. He believes use of pandemic-originating American Rescue Funds can help support Pennsylvanians until the economy has time to recover.
D'Orsie believes inflation and taxation are the two biggest issues, saying these economic pressures prevent the working class from flourishing. His solution is to work to scale those back and create relief for residents.
The 169th District consists of Codorus, Heidelberg, Manheim, Penn, Shrewsbury and West Manheim Townships and Glen Rock, Hanover, Jefferson, New Freedom and Railroad boroughs.
Klunk has held office since 2014, most recently defeating Democrat Sarah Hammond in 2018 earning 70.6% of the vote. She has a long history in politics leading to the position, most notably serving on George W. Bush's National Economic Council team and working with Congressman Todd Platts. She has deep roots in Hanover, graduating valedictorian of her Hanover Senior High School class of 2000.
Smith identifies as a "small r" Republican, promising to not vote for any partisan blocking or overreach of government, emphasizing personal liberties. He does not identify himself as a politician, but considers his campaign to be a "movement" focused on governments deferring to their constituents and not larger legislative tactics.
Klunk says reckless taxing and spending policies, along with governmental overreach on small businesses, killing state growth and de-incentivizing people from staying in the state. She is focusing on policies that can help the state working class grow and sustain communities and families in her district.
Smith says the spending and taxing policies of the government are smothering Pennsylvanians. He is also focused on ensuring school choice.
Jack Panyard is a reporter at the York Daily Record, part of the USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-850-5935 or on Twitter @JackPanyard.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Stan Saylor, Keith Gillespie lose Pa. House seats to GOP challengers