The very first article I wrote on for Elections Daily discussed my hometown of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – a county that, throughout the past century, has been a bedrock of Pennsylvania conservatism. That describer is slowly starting to change. With an influx of refugees and a growing Lancaster city, the county has gone from a dark red county to just a normal red county. There are hopes though, that as long as trends continue, Lancaster will finally turn blue. And in 2016, those long suffering Lancaster Democrats had seemed to find their standard bearer in Christina Hartman.
Meet Christina Hartman
Christina Hartman was a born and raised Lancasterite, growing up just outside of the city. She got her bachelor’s from George Washington University and her master’s from Fordham. She has since been at the head of multiple nonprofits throughout her adult life. In 2016 she decided to take on Lloyd Smucker in what was Pennsylvania’s 16th district, a usually solid red seat.
Hartman over-performed expectations though. While she still lost by about 10.5 points to Smucker, she had done better than any Democrat did in that seat, especially in a Presidential year. Hartman had seemed to find a niche. She was likable, a local, and was moderate enough to be tasteful to some of the moderate Republicans/conservative independents in the district. Primed and ready to go for another run in 2018 and with the tides of war swinging in favor of the democrats, Hartman was ready to give Lancaster a democrat for a congresswoman for the first time ever.
Just two things…
What is crucial to understand Christina Hartman’s over-performance in 2016 is that the previous 16th district wasn’t all of Lancaster County. The lines were drawn so that part of Chester County was drawn into the district. Chester’s quick shift from light red to blue has been well documented and was a big reason for the closer margin in 2016. It was the main catalyst behind why many people thought the district would be competitive in 2018, along with the shifting Lancaster city suburbs. That changed when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the states congressional lines and proceeded to draw all of Lancaster in with southern York County to create the new 11th district.
This harmed Hartman’s chances in this district greatly, as adding in southern York made the district much more Republican than it was previously. She still seemed to be headed to a rematch with Smucker and wanted to run in her home area. This is where her second issue came in. With the results in 2016, young progressives in Lancaster city, the areas major democratic voting bloc, created a new progressive organization, Lancaster Stands Up. This progressive group decided that Hartman was not left enough to be the party’s nominee and threw their support behind progressive Jess King. Without that grassroots support, Hartman decided to drop out of the race.
An aborted attempt to carpetbag
Of course, a redrawn map meant the there were possibly other opportunities around the area. Christina Hartman decided that she would attempt and take one of those opportunities. Carpetbagging to the 10th district was her plan, a district that would have been much like the old 16th. The issue there was that two legitimate candidates were in the race and both had momentum. The more progressive Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson from York and the moderate George Scott from Hershey both made early gains in the race. Each took up a lane that Hartman had used in her previous congressional campaign, which eventually became her doom.
Corbin-Johnson took up the woman lane that Hartman had in 2016. 2018 was a huge year for women in congress, especially on the democratic side. Hartman would’ve been apt to take advantage of that, but instead that lane was taken up. Corbin-Johnson was from York, had a history of working in and around the community, and was overall more appealing to left-wing voters. Her moderate lane was then taken up by George Scott. Scott, a Lutheran pastor based in Hershey, ran on the usual moderate campaign we saw in 2018. Protect Obamacare, run against the tax cuts, your typical stuff. Hartman was no longer the only sensible moderate.
Maybe her biggest issue was that she was no longer the local girl. Instead she could be seen as an opportunist, looking for her next stop to get into politics. There turned out to be no interest in her candidacy with the primary voters in her district. With Corbin-Johnson and Scott both outpolling her, Hartman dropped about 2 months before the primary occurred.
A failed statewide run
Avoiding embarrassment in 2018 left Hartman wide open for opportunities going into 2019 and 2020. Maybe she could contest one of the county wide elections, make a race competitive there. She could run for state senate against Scott Martin and make that race interesting. Instead Hartman decided to go big. She decided to run for the soon to be open Auditor General’s office, which is an elected office in Pennsylvania. The issue again for Hartman is that her lanes got taken up.
The Democratic primary drew six contestants, with Hartman considered to be one of the top three. The issue once again became that the top two contestants took up her two lanes. Michael Lamb, a controller from Pittsburgh, took Hartman’s moderate lane. Lamb and Hartman had very similar policy goals, and with his added bonus in being from the western part of the state, Lamb took over.
Her second lane of being the female balance on the Pennsylvania ticket and being from the southeast portion of the state, was taken by Nina Ahmad. Ahmad, a brash progressive from Philadelphia was not only able to give progressives an option in this race, but cut heavily into Hartman’s margins in Chester and Montgomery. In the end it worked out for both of Hartman’s opponents, as she ended up a disappointing third place.
What comes next for Lancaster Democrats and Hartman?
There is now an open question on the floor. Where do Democrats in Lancaster go from here? 2020 was supposed to be a show of strength and life, but it didn’t end up like that. Turnout was poor in the primary, Hartman got nowhere and they nominated a poor candidate for an important State Senate seat. I personally question whether Lancaster County Democrats have done a good enough job of registering those moderate GOP or independent voters as Democrats. Instead they now have a weaker State Senate candidate that could very well bring down the two state house seats they wanted to be competitive in.
For Christina Hartman it’s now onto a path of “where to next?” Does she decide to go for a State House or Senate seat in 2022, which is what she should have done this year. Will she sit out and wait for 2024 or be done with politics all together? Could she take control of Lancaster County’s Democratic Party and start building it up? I can’t say, but 2020 was meant to be the emergence of the Lancaster Democrat, with Hartman at the forefront of that emergence. Now, the future looks muddled going into 2022 for both Christina Hartman and Lancaster’s Democrats.