Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Bedford Twp. supervisor’s race has unusual twist


Republican Greg Stewart, left, will run against incumbent Walt Wilburn.


TEMPERANCE — The most closely watched race for Bedford Township's highest offices on Nov. 6 is the contest for supervisor, and there's a simple explanation why: It's the only competitive one.

The candidates for the township's other full-time offices — clerk and treasurer — are Republicans running unopposed, but the supervisor's race pits the endorsed Republican, Greg Stewart, against incumbent supervisor Walt Wilburn, who is running for a third term as a write-in candidate.

Mr. Stewart defeated Mr. Wilburn by 231 votes in the Aug. 7 GOP primary and seemed a shoo-in for election because no Democrat ran. Then Mr. Wilburn decided to mount a write-in campaign, attributing his primary loss to low turnout and Michigan's primary election rules that require voters to follow a straight party ticket.

Twenty-five percent of Bedford's registered voters cast primary ballots, and only 13 percent voted in the supervisor's race.

In announcing his candidacy, Mr. Wilburn said many of his supporters, convinced he was assured of victory, cast their votes for one of the three Democrats in the high-profile contest to be their party's nominee in the Monroe County sheriff's race, thereby disqualifying themselves from voting for him. In the the run-up to Election Day, both men are campaigning vigorously during their free time.

“I'm taking the stance that I have to start all over. I'm not sitting back because I won,” said Mr. Stewart, who is the municipal administrator in Luna Pier, a post he would quit if elected supervisor. “I just have to continue working. I'm literally driving through the subdivisions and if I see someone at home, I'll stop.” 

Mr. Wilburn has been distributing campaign flyers showing how to fill in his name on the write-in line of the ballot and complete the all-important task of penciling in the oval next to it.

Mr. Stewart, a Lambertville resident, has been campaigning on his background in economic development and what he says is the township's need of new leadership. 

Mr. Wilburn, who lives in Temperance, said he wants to continue focusing on improving the township's roads and other projects he has worked on during his almost eight years in office.

The slate of township board candidates is heavily Republican, containing only two Democrats running for trustee seats. Mary Kay Thayer, president of the Bedford Republican Club, said her group will spend about $2,000 on campaign ads. 

Mr. Stewart also is endorsed by the Monroe County Republican Executive Committee. Mr. Wilburn is endorsed by county unions representing deputy sheriffs, command officers, and corrections officers.

The winner of the supervisor's race may not be known on election night. Write-in votes must be counted by hand and sent to the Board of Canvassers in Monroe for validation. New terms for township office holders begin at noon on Nov. 20.

The candidates for the positions of township clerk and treasurer are, respectively, incumbent Trudy Hershberger and Paul Francis, a township trustee. 

Ms. Hershberger served as deputy clerk under Bob Schockman and was appointed clerk after his death in January. Mr. Francis has been a certified public accountant for 43 years and also served as a member of the Bedford Board of Education. The new treasurer will replace Sherri Meyer, who is retiring after 30 years in the office.

Six candidates vie for the four trustee seats. They are Republicans Paul Pirrone, Rick Steiner, Nancy Tienvieri, and Jeffery Zink. The Democrats are Mark Ellsworth and incumbent Larry O'Dell.

Democrats do outnumber Republicans in the contest for the five park commission seats. The Democrats are John Mohr and Connie Velliquette, both incumbents, and John Bomyea, Kathryn Schafer, and Joan Schockman. The Republican candidates are Garnet Francis, an incumbent, and Sally Dunn.

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