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Two longtime York County Republican legislators ousted by challengers

The shift to farther-right candidates is part of a broader trend, according to political analysts.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Two multi-decade Republican lawmakers in York County will not be up for re-election in the fall, after losing their primary races to challengers.

In Windsor Township, Wendy Fink beat State Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York), who has been in office nearly 30 years. In Hellam Township, Joe D’Orsie beat State Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York), who has been in office nearly 20 years.

“Something happens after a couple of decades after you're in political office. After talking to people, I think the fact that I am a rookie kind of appeals to them,” D’Orsie said while making campaign stops on Election Day.

Both challengers had criticized their incumbent rivals for not doing enough to fight state lockdowns during the pandemic or pass election reforms.

“A lot of our career politicians that are in Harrisburg right now – they're not working for the people," Fink said on Election Day. "They're working for themselves. They're sitting back, collecting their paycheck and not hearing our voices."

With no Democratic challengers, the candidates are all but guaranteed to win.

The shift to farther-right candidates is part of a broader trend, according to political analysts.

“What we are seeing increasingly within the Republican Party are candidates who have been lauded as very conservative being told they are insufficiently conservative just because they don't stand on a specific issue to the fullest extent of that policy issue,” said Alison Dagnes, a political science professor at Shippensburg University.

The upset comes after another York County representative broke party lines to endorse the challengers. State Rep. Mike Jones (R-York) made his surprise endorsement May 9. He claimed Gillespie and Saylor didn’t spend enough time out in the community to stay updated on the will of voters.

“I may have fanned the flames a little bit but I think they were largely shooting the messenger,” Jones said. “They are my friends. I tried to help them.”

In response, York County Republican Committee Chairman Jeff Piccola called to censure Jones, saying the endorsements were a “shameful act of betrayal” and a slap in the face of the entire committee.

The censure did not pass, according to Jones.

Minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, Piccola resigned in a tersely worded email: “I am submitting my resignation as Chair of the York County Republican Committee and the Executive Committee thereof effective immediately. Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

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