The race to represent York County’s westernmost district on the County Council is now between two former councilmen who have faced off for the seat before.
Steve McNeely of York, who served on the County Council for two terms, filed as a candidate in York on Thursday.
McNeely will face Joe Cox in the race for District 3 in the June 12 Republican primary.
McNeely was able to file to run because the York County Republican Party voted Tuesday to reopen filing following York County Councilman Eric Winstead’s withdrawal of his bid for re-election for what he called health reasons.
Last week, Winstead was charged with two driving offenses after his car ran off a Chester County road. The accident followed Winstead’s January guilty plea to a DUI charge.
A provision in state law allows for the entry of a candidate into the race after the filing period closes if a candidate dies or withdraws. The law also allows for a substitution of a candidate who withdraws for various reasons including health.
York County GOP officials accepted candidate filings at Popes at the White House restaurant in York across from Moss Justice Center until 1 p.m. When the filing period closed, no other candidates had filed.
McNeely, who was elected to the County Council in 2002 and served two terms as chairman, said he joined the race because he sees “a need for a business approach to operating the county and to create jobs.”
Jobs and economic development will lead to a broader tax base, he said, which the county needs.
McNeely said he wants to “get back to” a “streamlined” permitting process and treat developers and people interested in settling or starting businesses in York County “as a partner and encourage them to come to York (County),” he said.
Cox, who filed for the seat in the March filing period, beat McNeely in the District 3 Republican primary runoff in 2006 by nearly a 2-1 margin.
Cox, who now serves on the Sharon Town Council, served two terms on the County Council until he was defeated in 2010 by Eric Winstead.
McNeely said despite his 2006 loss, this time, “with the encouragement and the phone calls I’ve been getting, I feel confident.”
McNeely is a self-employed painting contractor, running McNeely Brothers Painting for more than 40 years. He was born in York and has been a life-long resident.
“If (McNeely) wants to move forward with this campaign, I’ll see him on the 12th,” Cox said Thursday afternoon.
Cox said if he wins, he will represent District 3 “to the best of my ability when I sit in the chair,” he said.
In 2006, Cox said, he ran for office to keep a landfill out of his district and to address what he saw as problems with the county’s Pennies for Progress 1-cent sales tax road building program. A battle between area hospitals to build in Fort Mill was also an important issue to him.
“I live out here; I use the businesses out here,” he said. “I care about what happens in western York County. I understand that we represent the entire county,” but if elected he would also represent the district, he said.
Election Commission to change ballot
The York County Election Commission voted Thursday to change the ballot to include any candidates who filed with the York County GOP for York County Council’s District 3 seat.
Some commissioners supported the move while expressing reluctance, citing the short timeframe between now and the June 12 primary, the absentee ballots that have already gone out, and the short timeframe for new candidates to enter the race as concerns.
Commissioner Joe Berger said before the vote that he didn’t consider reopening filing for a half day a “reasonable” amount of time to afford candidates the opportunity to enter.
That was one question the commission was supposed to consider in determining whether to allow candidates to be added to the ballot, he said.
But Berger said refusing to add the names would “add salt to the wound” of an already difficult situation and push the commission and county party “into a battle beyond recognition.”
York County Republican Party Chairman Glenn McCall said Friday that the Republican Party was ready to sue if the commission had not voted not to change the ballot.
The commission also voted to allow the elections office to work with the county attorney on a solution for dealing with absentee ballots.
Jonell Hagner, who has worked in the elections office, came to the meeting and critiqued the plan to add new candidates because absentee ballots have already been sent out – some to those serving in the military .
“That’s a group that we continually throw under the bus,” Hagner said, adding that other absentee ballots will go to elderly voters who could be confused when they get new ballots in the mail.
Before the vote, Hagner said she hoped the commission would make their decision on “common sense and being reasonable and not just fear of lawsuits.”
York County elections director Wanda Hemphill said the county is at a “critical point” and sees the “biggest headache” in determining how to deal with absentee ballots.
Commission vice chairman Kenneth Love said it’s fortunate that only one district seat was involved, which makes it possible to deal with.
“If it had been a multiple type of ballot situation, we probably couldn’t have handled it,” he said.