It doesn’t happen often, but it can be done: A write-in candidate has unseated an incumbent in Conoy Township.
Justin Risser, 36, a dairy farmer, got 438 write-in votes in the general election to unseat Supervisor John L. Shearer. It wasn’t a partisan issue; Risser and Shearer are both Republicans.
Risser could have challenged Shearer in a more conventional manner; he only needed 10 signatures from registered Republicans to get on the primary election ballot. But it was too late to do that by the time Risser decided to run.
“It was all timing,” Risser said in an interview.
He said he had talked with neighbors in Conoy Township and found that a number wanted another option. Several were willing to be the candidate; Risser said he had the time to do it.
“I was always thinking that one day I would get involved in local government,” Risser said.
He said some township residents felt like they were not being heard, which made a write-in campaign viable.
“I felt like there was going to be a lot of support for a write-in campaign; otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted my time,” Risser said, adding: “It wasn’t just a couple people; there were more people than what I thought.”
Risser said some of the discontent was the township’s acquisition of real estate, including the purchase of a historic blacksmith shop. Supervisors broke away from a public meeting in October for an executive session to discuss the purchase of real estate, then returned to public session to vote to purchase the building. There was no public notice given in advance that the building might be purchased.
“It wasn’t well advertised that that was even being voted on,” Risser said.
He said the township’s ownership of the Salt Shaker building, formerly owned by a ministry group, has caused many events requiring the rental of a hall to be held there, when previously they might have been held in the fire hall. That has cut into the volunteer fire company’s revenues, he said.
Risser also said roads and bridges are not being maintained as well as he would like.
“You look at yourself and you say, ‘What can I do?’,” Risser said.
As for the cost of the campaign, Risser said he spent barely over $100, but others spent money on his behalf.\
“Some people went out and purchased a few things without telling me,” Risser said, including dozens of campaign signs seen around the township.
Risser said he would like to see more candidates running for public office.
“I want to encourage people that are my age to run,” Risser said. He noted that even if a campaign is unsuccessful, “At least you get your name recognized,” which can be beneficial for a future campaign.
Risser said it is ultimately about giving the people a choice.
“We have a great township and we need some different options from time to time,” he said.