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Write-in Candidates Join Ferguson Race Over Water Concerns

Colleen Unroe and Toby Short
Emily Reddy
Write-in candidate Colleen Unroe talks with voter Toby Short about the proposed student housing development at Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive.

Two members of the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors up for reelection this year probably thought they were shoo-ins. Dick Mascolo and Drew Clemson were unopposed on yesterday’s Republican primary ballot with no one registered to run on the Democratic side. But concerns over a proposed housing development led a slate of new candidates to enter the race at the last minute as write-ins.

The proposed development at the corner of Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive has some local residents concerned about possible drinking water contamination. The land is near a water recharge area that feeds most of the State College area’s water supply.

That’s why Colleen Unroe, a Penn State graduate student in Rural Sociology and a community organizer, decided to try to unseat a current supervisor who she doesn’t think is doing enough to stop the development. Unroe spent primary election day outside a polling place, asking voters to write her in for supervisor in Ferguson Township’s Ward 3.

“So many citizens have come together around this issue," said Unroe. "I’ve been out here most of the day, and I haven’t met anyone -- not a Democrat, not a Republican -- that thinks that this development project is a good idea.”

The supervisor Unroe is trying to replace, Drew Clemson, said the Ferguson supervisors haven’t made up their minds yet about whether to support the development.

“We have to do the right thing and our votes have to be based on objective scientific information," said Clemson. "We don’t have it all yet. We should have more next week. I’m hoping. Cross my fingers.”

Unroe and the two other write-in candidates, Peter Buckland and Laura Dinnini, each need only 10 votes spelled consistently and cast in the same party to be on the ballot in November. Buckland will likely run unopposed as there was no candidate in his Ward. Write-ins will be tallied within a couple of days. 

Emily Reddy is the news director at WPSU-FM, the NPR-affiliate public radio station for central and northern Pennsylvania.