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Election 2017: Helfrich tops Bracey in YorkAlso: Property tax ballot question passes

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York saw longtime mayor C. Kim Bracey, right, defeated by challenger Michael Helfrich, left.
York saw longtime mayor C. Kim Bracey, right, defeated by challenger Michael Helfrich, left. - (Photo / )

Two of the midstate's largest cities will have new mayors following Tuesday's general election, and Pennsylvania is on the path toward a potential overhaul of its property tax structure.

While Lancaster's mayoral race was a contest between two newcomers, York saw longtime mayor C. Kim Bracey defeated by challenger Michael Helfrich.

At the state level voters approved a measure calling for amending the state constitution to give local taxing authorities the power to exempt homeowners from 100 percent of property taxes on their primary residences.

Here is what you need to know about key races in the midstate and beyond.

York: Helfrich wins

Incumbent Democrat Bracey may have defeated challenger Helfrich in the primary, but the city council president returned in the general election, running as a Republican, to oust York's mayor from the seat she has occupied since 2010.

Helfrich received 2,120 votes (51 percent) to Bracey's 1,987 votes (48 percent). Libertarian Dave Moser received 60 votes.

Despite the strength of a city on the rebound, 2017 has been a difficult year for Bracey, whose son allegedly attacked Bracey in her campaign office last month.

Helfrich, meanwhile, had been dogged by previous drug use and a felony record. When he was 20, he pleaded guilty to two felonies for offering a ride to a man he knew was carrying LSD and psychedelic mushrooms, as he told the Business Journal earlier this year, adding that he has a place in his heart for people who have committed crimes, and whose records hold them back from job opportunities.

In his victory speech, Helfrich thanked voters who supported him knowing about "the good stuff" and "the bad stuff," YDR reported.

A business retirement planning specialist, Helfrich has said he appreciates the city's downtown revitalization efforts.

Lancaster: Sorace wins

Danene Sorace
Danene Sorace - ()

Democrat Danene Sorace will succeed outgoing Mayor Rick Gray thanks to a sweeping win in Tuesday’s election.

Sorace received 4,784 of the 6,550 votes cast. She ran against Republican Cindy Stewart, who received 1,483 votes, and three independent candidates: Tony Dastra (147 votes), Zachary Nesbitt (69 votes) and J.S. Woody Chandler (67 votes).

Sorace has served on city council for four years and touted her familiarity with Lancaster's budget process and other procedures as one of her biggest strengths going into the election. In addition to serving on council, she has performed consulting work for the city and organizations like Pennsylvania College of Art and Design and the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County, with an expertise in grant-making and strategic planning.

She will be the city’s first new mayor since Gray took office nearly 12 years ago. Gray, who is retiring, had endorsed Sorace.

In office, Sorace hopes to continue the city revitalization that took off under Gray’s administration, while scrapping or refining programs in need of improvement, she said in interviews before the election. She ran on a platform promising engagement with the city’s neighborhoods beyond the central downtown, safety initiatives to protect cyclists and pedestrians, promotion of living-wage jobs, and fiscally sound and transparent government.

Democrats also prevailed in Lancaster’s city council race, with Ismail Smith-Wade-El, Janet Diaz, Faith Craig and Pete Soto beating out Republicans Paul Culbreth and Frank Cabanas.

Lebanon: Capello rides to reelection

Sherry Capello
Sherry Capello - ()

In Lebanon, incumbent Mayor Sherry Capello captured a third term, handily defeating Democratic challenger Josh Brady by 1,428 votes (65 percent) to 780 votes (35 percent).

Capello has said she is particularly proud of efforts to address the city’s finances, and in the tens of millions of dollars of economic development that have come to Lebanon over the past seven years — efforts that began at the tail end of the mid-2000s recession.

Capello has substantial municipal experience, which began in 1987 with a job as a Lebanon County zoning officer.

She also was a major force behind the creation of a Business Improvement District, or BID, which was formally established by City Council in 2016. The five-year economic revitalization program, overseen by the Neighborhood Improvement District Management Association, is designed to attract businesses and visitors to downtown Lebanon.

Property tax question

Pennsylvania voters on Tuesday were asked to approve an amendment giving the General Assembly power to pass legislation authorizing local governments to grant homeowners property tax exemptions up to 100 percent.

Previously, local governments were permitted to exempt up to 50 percent of their median home value from property taxes.

The move was backed by voters statewide by 54 percent to 46 percent, but that doesn't mean change is coming immediately — or at all.

As Philly.com points out, first the legislature would have to pass such a bill. Then individual taxing authorities — counties, municipalities, and school districts — would have to enact their own exemptions.

As longtime political analyst G. Terry Madonna told WITF, any movement will require new sources of revenue to replace the lost property taxes — something that will require action from the legislature.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @jenni_wentz.

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