Eric Papenfuse

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Eric Robert Papenfuse
Eric Papenfuse 3 2015.JPG
Mayor of Harrisburg
Assumed office
January 6, 2014
Preceded by Linda Thompson
Personal details
Born (1971-09-04) September 4, 1971 (age 47)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Catherine Lawrence
Residence Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Alma mater Yale University (MPhil)
Yale University (MA)
Yale University (BA)
Website Office of the Mayor

Eric Robert Papenfuse (born September 4, 1971) is an American businessman and politician who is currently serving as the 38th Mayor of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Papenfuse is the founder and co-owner with his wife of The Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, which they have owned since 2001.[1]

Early life[edit]

Eric Papenfuse was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 4, 1971. He attended the Boys' Latin School of Maryland, graduating in 1989 as the valedictorian.[2] His father, Edward C. Papenfuse, is a retired Maryland State Archivist.[3] His mother, Sallie Papenfuse, is a reading teacher at The Boys' Latin School of Maryland.[4] He spent a decade at Yale pursuing an undergraduate and graduate in history.[5][6] At Yale, he wrote the book, The Evils of Necessity: Robert Goodloe Harper and the Moral Dilemma of Slavery, which was published by the American Philosophical Society in 1997.[3]

Business career[edit]

This is the main floor of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore where they have featured authors and events.

Midtown Scholar Bookstore[edit]

Papenfuse started the Midtown Scholar Bookstore because he wanted a place for people in Harrisburg to come together "where people could talk about books, where they could have intellectually engaged ideas about all sorts of issues of the day"[7] and "to listen to music, to drink coffee, to congregate."[8] He envisioned his bookstore from the beginning as a Town Hall for the community.[8]

The bookstore houses some 200,000 new, used and rare books as well as a warehouse full of over 2,000,000 books which are sold online. The Midtown Scholar is considered one of America's largest academic used bookstores and it is considered the driving force for the cultural revitalization of Harrisburg's Midtown.[1] The New York Times book critic Dwight Garner described the bookstore as an "essentially religious experience. Vaut le voyage, as the Michelin guides like to say."[9]

The Midtown Scholar has a coffee shop and a bakery run by P&R famous for their southern sweet potato pies.[10] They host music concerts, author talks, book clubs and poetry readings. In the last year, the Midtown Scholar hosted the acclaimed author Salman Rushdie who presented his new novel The Golden House;[11] Mark Bowden, the author of Hue 1968;[12] Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist and critic of Putin;[13] and Patricia Lockwood, whose poems have appeared in the London Review of Books and the New Yorker magazine.[14]

Political career[edit]

Papenfuse served briefly starting in January 2007 on Harrisburg's Authority board[15] (now known as Capital Region Water) which had overseen Harrisburg's botched incinerator and had lead the city to near bankruptcy with more than $300 million in debt.[16] He resigned in November 2007 after a YouTube video showed him bringing up a mock Christmas gift list of strangely titled books for city officials.[17]

After two unsuccessful Democratic primary bids in 2009 for a seat on the Harrisburg City Council and in 2011 for Dauphin County Commissioner,[18] Papenfuse reentered politics in January 2013 with his announcement that he would run for Mayor of Harrisburg. He won the 2013 Mayoral Election which began his political career and in 2017 won a second term as mayor. Prior to his career as a bookstore owner and a mayor, he was a teacher of Latin for Central Dauphin East High School and Linglestown Junior High School.[8]


2013 Harrisburg mayoral election[edit]

Papenfuse won a contested Democratic primary election in May 2013 by beating incumbent mayor Linda Thompson as well as Dan Miller and Lewis Butts.[19] After losing to him in the primaries, Dan Miller switched parties and ran against Papenfuse in the general election as the Republican candidate .[20] Papenfuse defeated him and several write-in candidates to win the mayor's seat on November 5, 2013. There were an unusual amount of write-in votes for mayor, accounting for about 17% of the final vote.[21] Papenfuse assumed office on January 6, 2014.

2017 Harrisburg mayoral election[edit]

Papenfuse won a contested Democratic Primary in the run-up to the Mayoral Election on May 17, 2017, with 48.5% of the votes. Gloria Martin-Roberts won 38.2% of the primary vote.[22] The vote between Papenfuse and Martin-Roberts was split evenly between Harrisburg's West side which favored Papenfuse to Harrisburg's East side which favored Martin-Roberts. On November 7, 2017, Papenfuse won a second, 4-year term as Mayor by a large margin with two of his opponents in the Democratic Primaries, Martin-Roberts and Lewis Butts, running as write-in candidates against him.

Mayor of Harrisburg (2013–present)[edit]

2015 Comprehensive Plan[edit]

In the second year of his tenure as Mayor, Papenfuse initiated a Comprehensive Plan for the City of Harrisburg. The Plan was launched in 2015 and sought to encourage preservation of historic buildings, strengthen neighborhoods and the environment by promoting growth through improving the quality of life.[23] The $200,000 Plan was to be completed in the Spring of 2016, but issues with the hired consultant, Bret Peters, of the Office of Planning and Architecture, lead to the City terminating the contract.[24]

2016 Patriot-News media ban[edit]

In 2016, the Patriot-News reported on two stories that dealt with Mayor Papenfuse. The first concerned that he owned 8 properties near the Third Street Cafe bar in which he had declared a business nuisance [25] and sought its closure and the second is the uncovering of his avoidance of paying overtime for his employees for several years by the Department of Labor.[26] On June 13, 2016, the same day that Donald Trump revoked the Washington Post's press credentials,[27] Papenfuse issued a ban for the Patriot-News and directed his spokeswoman to no longer answer questions from the Patriot-News reporters and claimed that the reason was because of the Patriot-News being more like "Gawker ... not the equivalent of the Washington Post"[28] yet journalists responded by saying it was in response to two news stories that delved into his business holdings and practices.[29] Papenfuse's media censorship was featured by the Committee to Protect Journalists in Attacks on the Press: The New Face of Censorship.[30]

Electoral history[edit]

Mayor of Harrisburg

Harrisburg Mayoral primary results, May 21, 2013[31]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Papenfuse 2,467 38.45%
Democratic Dan Miller 2,066 32.2%
Democratic Linda Thompson 1,810 32.2%
Democratic Lewis Butts 64 0.01%
Total votes 6,415 100.0
Harrisburg Mayoral election results, November 5, 2013[32]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Papenfuse 3,618 49.66%
Republican Dan Miller 2,333 32.02%
N/A Write-in 1,334 18.31%
Total votes 7,285 100.0
Harrisburg Mayoral primary results, May 16, 2017[33]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Papenfuse 2,534 48.51%
Democratic Gloria Martin-Roberts 1,997 38.23%
Democratic Jennie Jenkins 490 9.38%
Democratic Lewis L. Butts, Jr. 123 2.35%
Democratic Anthony Thomas Harrell 70 1.34%
Total votes 5,223 100.0
Harrisburg Mayoral election uncontested, November 7, 2017 [34]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Papenfuse 3,786 88.31%
N/A Write-in 501 11.68%

Personal life[edit]

He met his wife, Catherine Lawrence, in a graduate American history class at Yale University.[35] After Lawrence and Papenfuse graduated from Yale University, in 1999 Lawrence received a position as an Assistant Professor of British history at Messiah College and they decided to move to Harrisburg. They found a large Victorian house on Front Street in Harrisburg's Shipoke neighborhood near the site of Harris' Ferry, the "most historic crossing place on the Susquehanna."[36]

He is the founder with his wife of The Eric Papenfuse and Catherine Lawrence Endowment Fund in Film and Media Studies of the University of California Press Foundation which has supported eight books on film studies. Their Endowment Fund supports "provocative books on the aesthetics, politics, history and sociocultural implications of cinema and other forms of mass media."[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mealy, Todd (2014). Legendary Locals of Harrisburg. Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. 
  2. ^ "Valedictorian Speeches - The Boys' Latin School of Maryland". 
  3. ^ a b Papenfuse, Eric Robert (1997). "The Evils of Necessity: Robert Goodloe Harper and the Moral Dilemma of Slavery". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 87 (1): i–160. doi:10.2307/1006634. JSTOR 1006634. 
  4. ^ "Papenfuse Vita". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  5. ^ Branch, Mark Alden (January 10, 2014). "Eric Papenfuse '93, '96MPhil: a new chapter for Harrisburg". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved March 11, 2018. 
  6. ^ Fellman, Bruce (Summer 1997). "Milestone at a Crossroads". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved March 11, 2018. 
  7. ^ Burkett, Cary (October 15, 2015). "Making and Re-Making Midtown: The Midtown Scholar". WITF. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  8. ^ a b c Vegoe, Stephan (Winter 2014). "Harrisburg's New Mayor". Harrisburg Regional News: 5. 
  9. ^ Garner, Dwight (December 30, 2013). "What I Discovered on My Flash Drive". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2018. 
  10. ^ Gleiter, Sue (November 10, 2015). "Sweet potato pies from P&R Bakery in Harrisburg: 'There's no comparison'". PennLive. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  11. ^ "An Evening with Salman Rushdie". Midtown Scholar Bookstore. September 29, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  12. ^ "Mark Bowden in Conversation with Michael Neiberg". Midtown Scholar Bookstore. September 9, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  13. ^ "An Evening with Masha Gessen". Midtown Scholar Bookstore. November 20, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  14. ^ "An Evening with Patricia Lockwood". Midtown Scholar Bookstore. June 6, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  15. ^ Marcheskie, Dave (July 22, 2015). "Papenfuse says he was 'blacklisted', 'ostracized' during 8-year journey for justice". ABC 27 News. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  16. ^ Tavernise, Sabrina (July 20, 2011). "Harrisburg Finds Itself in Uncharted Financial Waters". The New York Times. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  17. ^ Luciew, John (December 8, 2007). ""Has city heard the last of Eric? // Activist Papenfuse has kept silent for month."". NewsBank. The Patriot-News. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  18. ^ PennLive Editorial Board (May 23, 2015). "Are primary election results an indicator of Mayor Papenfuse's growing power? Editorial". PennLive. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  19. ^ Pickel, Janet, May 21, 2013, "Harrisburg Mayor's Race: Eric Pappenfuse Wins the Democratic Primary Election", PennLive.
  20. ^ Foster, Brittany, November 5, 2013, "Papenfuse Wins Harrisburg Mayoral",
  21. ^ Snyder, Myles, November 6, 2013, "Papenfuse Wins Race for Harrisburg Mayor",
  22. ^ Vendel, Christine (May 17, 2017). "Harrisburg mayor hangs on to Democratic nomination in hard-fought race". PennLive. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Veronikis, Eric (May 19, 2016). "Harrisburg mayor owns 8 properties near bar he aims to close". PennLive. Retrieved March 4, 2018. 
  26. ^ Barker, Paul (June 10, 2016). "Overtime violations at Midtown Scholar warehouse illustrate national problem". PennLive. Retrieved March 4, 2018. 
  27. ^ Cillizza, Chris (June 13, 2016). "Donald Trump just barred Washington Post reporters from campaign events. That should bother you". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 8, 2018. 
  28. ^ Marcheskie, Dave (June 16, 2016). "Papenfuse insists on ban of PennLive reporters". The Sentinel. Retrieved March 4, 2018. 
  29. ^ Gleiter, Dan (June 20, 2016). "Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse refuses to answer PennLive reporter questions at news conference". PennLive. Retrieved March 4, 2018. 
  30. ^ Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), John Wiley & Sons (2017). Attacks on the Press: The New Face of Censorship. John Wiley & Sons. p. 45. 
  31. ^ Malawskey, Nick (May 21, 2013). "Real-time Harrisburg mayoral primary results". PennLive. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  32. ^ Malawskey, Nick (November 5, 2013). "Election results: Live coverage on Harrisburg, Carlisle, Susquehanna Township races, more". PennLive. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  33. ^ Simmons-Ritchie, Daniel (May 17, 2017). "Results of Dauphin County municipal and judicial primary election". PennLive. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  34. ^ Malawskey, Nick (November 8, 2017). "Election results for Dauphin County municipal races: Live updates". PennLive. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 
  35. ^ Vegoe, Stephan (Winter 2014). "Harrisburg's New Mayor". Harrisburg Regional News: 4–6. 
  36. ^ "Harris' Ferry | Pennsylvania Trails of History". Pennsylvania Trails of History. Retrieved March 7, 2018. 
  37. ^ "Eric Papenfuse and Catherine Lawrence Endowment Fund in Film and Media Studies". University of California Press. Retrieved March 9, 2018. 

External links[edit]