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Lancaster County Pa. House primary race approaching $500,000 in spending

  • By Jaxon White/LNP | LancasterOnline
State Rep. Bryan Culter, right, shakes hand with primary challenger Dave Nissley talk at the end of a debate between the Republican primary candidates for the 100th state House District at Southern End Community Association in Quarryville, Thursday April 11, 2024.

 Andy Blackburn / LNP | LancasterOnline

State Rep. Bryan Culter, right, shakes hand with primary challenger Dave Nissley talk at the end of a debate between the Republican primary candidates for the 100th state House District at Southern End Community Association in Quarryville, Thursday April 11, 2024.

Primary challengers often struggle to raise money in races against well-established incumbents.

But political newcomer Dave Nissley, the Sadsbury Township business owner running against state Rep. Bryan Cutler in next Tuesday’s primary, has raised $129,000 for his campaign and is benefiting from significant independent spending by multiple conservative organizations based outside Lancaster County.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the state since last week, Nissley’s campaign and supporting groups have spent more than $260,000 this year to defeat Cutler, the nine-term incumbent from Peach Bottom who’s the leader of his party in the Pennsylvania House.

Meanwhile, Cutler and political action committees backing his campaign have spent more than $194,000 to fend off Nissley.

More than $454,000 total had been spent on the primary, as of April 8 — the last reporting deadline. But in the week since, 24-hour fundraising reports required of candidates in the final two weeks of a campaign show Cutler receiving substantial amounts.

Out of the total $334,000 Cutler has raised since January, about $169,000 (as of Monday) was given after April 8. Nissley gave himself $20,000 after the April 8 deadline.

Much of the pro-Nissley money has been spent on political mailers sent to voters’ homes in the 100th Legislative District, which covers the southern end of Lancaster County and stretches north to include Gap and Strasburg.

Nissley so far has raised about four times more than Anne Weston, the Quarryville resident who challenged Cutler in the 2022 primary. Unlike Weston, Nissley has benefited from groups that have been actively organizing opposition to Cutler since the beginning of 2023, when Cutler tried to stop Democrats from asserting control of the Pennsylvania House by electing a Democrat to the speakership.

That deal blew up after the Democrat didn’t follow through to act as an independent, and Democrats were able to elect their preferred Speaker months later after two special elections gave the party a one-seat majority.

The groups working against Cutler include Citizens Alliance Pennsylvania, PA Liberty Alliance and its affiliated Liberty Fund, and the Pennsylvania Patriot Coalition. Each has either sent political mailers on Nissley’s behalf or have had members give money to his campaign.

Last-minute reinforcements

The House Republican Campaign Committee typically stays out of primary campaigns, often saving its cash for the general election when the goal is defeating Democrats.

But since last week, the committee gave $132,000 directly to Cutler’s campaign.

“That would certainly suggest they think it is a close race and they want to protect the leader,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist and former vice chair of the Conservative Political Action Convention.

Bob Bozzuto, chair of the House GOP campaign arm, on Friday didn’t dispute that view. He said the committee has “supported incumbent members in many ways this year.” Its campaign report did not show any contributions this year to any other incumbent.

State Sen. Ryan Aument, a West Hempfield Republican and longtime Cutler friend, on Friday denied that the House campaign committee’s involvement indicates a need for concern about Cutler’s reelection chances.

“I think it has more to do with Cutler being leader and raising money for and into HRCC PAC,” said Aument, referring to Cutler’s responsibility as leader to help finance Republican campaigns statewide.

Since 2019, Cutler has given the campaign committee more than $2.1 million.

Cutler also received about $21,000 on April 11 from the state Republican Party, and $5,000 from state Sen. Scott Martin, whose district includes Cutler’s.

Voters won’t know how Cutler has spent those late contributions until at least 30 days after the primary.

Up to April 8, Cutler’s top donors included the Transportation Construction Industries PAC ($22,500), the Pennsylvania Aggregates & Concrete Association PAC ($10,000), and other lawmakers — in addition to a $6,500 donation from Martin, two Pennsylvania House members from Lancaster County – Reps. Mindy Fee and Steve Mentzer – gave $5,500.

Cutler also received about $9,000 in donations under $250 from 126 different donors.

“I am honored that so many colleagues, individuals, and groups have stepped up to defend my record of conservative results,” said Cutler.

Much of his campaign spending has been on mailers and other advertisements. Cutler also reimbursed himself $1,300 to cover mileage for personally delivering yard signs and other campaign-related travel.

He did not respond to a question asking for his thoughts about the state of the race.

‘In-kind’ spending for Nissley

Nissley said Cutler’s last-minute donations are a “sneaky contribution from the lobbyist-funded House political action committee.”

Nissley’s latest scheduled report shows his campaign has benefited from many “in-kind contributions,” a blanket term that can mean a caterer providing food for an event at no cost or when an individual or political committee spends money on behalf of a candidate without giving the money directly to the campaign.

Citizens Alliance Pennsylvania, a conservative group with a history of backing GOP primary challengers, bought $140,000 worth of mailers on behalf of Nissley, as reported by LNP | LancasterOnline last week.

In 2022’s primary, Citizens Alliance played a pivotal role in defeating then-House Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor, supporting conservative challenger Wendy Fink. Nissley has said he is basing his campaign strategy on Fink’s.

Also, the Liberty Fund, one of the conservative groups that have organized against Cutler, paid $22,600 on behalf of the Nissley campaign, but his report did not describe what that money paid for. Another in-kind contribution came from Micah Trostle, who produced a video advertisement viewable on Nissley’s campaign Facebook page. Trostle’s work was valued at $10,100.

“I am proud to have been endorsed by citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Liberty alliance,” Nissley said in a statement. “Both these organizations are honorable groups who help the people run against the establishment.”

Since January, Nissley raised $80,000 — including about $8,900 coming from 60 donors who gave less than $250.

His largest donations include $11,700 from the PA Liberty Fund and $10,500 from Chris King, owner of The Produce Place in Kennett Square in Chester County.

Nissley spent $42,000 at Ream Printing in York on more political mailers.

Reporter Nate Willison, who writes about campaign finance for LNP | LancasterOnline, contributed to this report. His work is funded by the Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund. For more information, or to make a contribution, please visit

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