I have been quiet during the past few months. Earlier this year I decided to put my name in to run for Township Supervisor. In my corner of Montgomery County, PA the Republican party has had an iron grip for a long long time. But more than that, the individuals who have held this office in recent years have not served the community well. Lack of transparency, responsiveness to residents needs and concerns, and the absence of any vision or plan for the future has led to frustration and a simmering stew of resentment.
In Pennsylvania we have a form of government called a township. The state is home to over 1400 townships that cover 95 percent of the land area, according to the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) website. Some are tiny rural areas, while others are larger and more urban.
To make a long story short, on Tuesday, November 7, I stood outside the polling place in the cold and occasional rain for over 13 hours. When the votes were counted I won with over 60% of the vote. The long weeks and months of walking country roads and knocking on doors and attending community meetings ended in an historic victory for a Democrat in Republican land. Turnout was up by 50%, despite rain during most of the afternoon. Long-time Republicans come up to me to tell me that they were crossing party lines to vote for me. I received emails from well wishers who hoped for the best but expected to be disappointed yet again. Because the truth was that Democrats just don’t run for office here and feel that they’re treated like second class citizens.
How did I win? I’ve been doing some thinking about this and have a few theories. There was a slight affect from national politics. Mostly, it was because the current Board of Supervisors was viewed as not serving residents. They misunderstood the overwhelming desire of the community to maintain its rural character. They were viewed as being apathetic and unwilling to address the big issues like safety, fiscal responsibility and development. I came along did what they had not: listened. By early Fall I had come into contact with every neighborhood and every issue. Community groups asked me to attend their meetings, and told their neighbors that a vote for me was a vote for change. Even as I gained supporters, many remained uncertain. How could I overcome decades of the status quo? Would I get enough votes? What if I won by only a few votes? What if the opposition threw the whole weight of the party against me or launched a smear campaign?
The answer was simple: my campaign manager, otherwise known as my spouse, had a brilliant strategy: stay below the radar until it’s too late for to respond. It worked like a charm. Even with my campaign lit drops and door knocking and meetings, they never took me seriously. Only in the last week of the campaign when candidate statements started to appear in the local paper, did my opponent take notice. By then it was too late and he had to go on defense. Our last weekend was a hectic flurry of activity with volunteers joined us in our kitchen to craft a letter to potential to make my case, drop off door hangers, and put yard signs out.
But it was actually much simpler than that. People were ready. I kept my message simple and aspirational.
So now my journey begins. The two men I will have to work likely view me with some trepidation. They know I have a mandate, and that the vote was a condemnation of their administration. I take office on January 1, but for now, I am going to reconnect with friends and family, get back to cooking and exercise, and sleep the peaceful sleep of a job well done.