Elizabethtown Democrats are taking a crack at challenging longtime Republican state Rep. David S. Hickernell, putting up a candidate who ran unsuccessfully for Elizabethtown Borough Council last year.
Mary Auker-Endres announced her candidacy for the 98th District seat on Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Elizabethtown train station. Hickernell has frequently been re-elected without opposition in the heavily Republican area and got more than 69 percent of the vote the last time he faced a challenger in 2014.
Erin Grosh, who was elected to the Elizabethtown Area School District’s board last year, said Auker-Endres was instrumental in her victory.
“Her organizational skills are unrivaled,” Grosh said.
Grosh also praised Auker-Endres’ work ethic.
“She’s not afraid to do the work that others shy away from,” Grosh said.
Grosh said the public schools need someone in the Legislature who understands the problem of the state imposing mandates on school districts without providing the money to pay for them. She criticized Hickernell for agreeing to serve as chairman of the House Education Committee without ever having served on the committee before.
Auker-Endres was the last of several speakers at the campaign event. She told the group that she grew up in Lancaster County and lived in small towns in Washington state and Maine while her husband, John, was serving in the Navy. She said she was glad they are raising their 4-year-old son, Jack, in Elizabethtown.
“I love watching Jack grow up here too,” Auker-Endres said, noting that she likes seeing her son growing up in the same environment that shaped her.
But she said things are not all well in Pennsylvania with the state’s bond rating dropping, meaning the state has to pay higher interest rates to borrow money. She said she has been listening to first responders about the drug problem in the region. She said education is being particularly squeezed by the state.
“Our educational system becomes more burdened and less efficient each year,” Auker-Endres said.
She said anger at career politicians is justified and urged people to focus it on state government.
“You want to drain the swamp? Let’s start with the swamp on the Susquehanna,” she said.
She said getting fair wages for work and quality early childhood education were among her priorities.
“Harrisburg isn’t listening, but I am, and I’m ready to act,” Auker-Endres said.
The last time Hickernell faced challengers was in 2014, when he got 12,063 votes (69.2 percent) in the general election against Democratic candidate Tony Crocamo and Green Party candidate Ryan Hazel. Crocamo got 4,699 votes (26.96 percent) and Hazel got 669 votes (3.84 percent). The 98th District includes the boroughs of Mount Joy, Elizabethtown, Columbia and Marietta and the townships of Conoy, East Donegal, West Donegal and West Hempfield in Lancaster County as well as Londonderry Township in Dauphin County.