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Bedford supervisor to mount write-in drive

Wilburn acknowledges challenges ahead

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    Walt Wilburn

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    Greg Stewart

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Greg Stewart

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TEMPERANCE -- The race for Bedford Township supervisor seemed all but over this month, when incumbent Walt Wilburn was defeated by Greg Stewart in the Republican primary.

Because no Democrat is running, Mr. Stewart seemed a shoo-in for election on Nov. 6.

Mr. Wilburn, however, said he intends to make the race competitive by filing as a write-in candidate. If he follows through, township voters will have the chance to vote in the general election for the same candidates for supervisor who appeared on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

Mr. Wilburn acknowledged that successful write-in campaigns are few and far between, but he said he believes he has the "support and well-known name" to beat Mr. Stewart, who claimed an upset primary victory by a 231-vote margin.

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Walt Wilburn

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"From the people I've talked with, I'm confident the support is out there in the township," he said.

The supervisor said a write-in campaign kickoff is planned for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6 in the Bedford Branch Library. To run successfully, he said, he needs 150 to 200 volunteers and $15,000. He said he's confident he'll get both.

"We'll be going door to door. … This will be a grass-roots write-in campaign. That's what it's going to take to win this election," he said.

Bedford's last significant write-in effort was in 1996, when then-Lambertville Fire Chief Dennis Cox challenged Republican LaMar Frederick in the supervisor's race. Mr. Frederick won with 65 percent of the vote. Again, no Democrat was in the race.

Mary Kay Thayer, president of the Bedford Republican Club, said she was surprised by Mr. Wilburn's decision but declined to comment further except to say she thought the primary contest "was a very clean race."

Mr. Stewart said the decision surprised him because Mr. Wilburn had waged an aboveboard campaign and offered a gracious concession.

"It is what it is. He was a class act at first, and I'll just have to handle it now," Mr. Stewart said.

In the primary, Mr. Wilburn collected 1,430 votes to Mr. Stewart's 1,661. In his eighth year as supervisor, Mr. Wilburn sought a third, four-year term. Mr. Stewart of Lambertville is the administrator for the city of Luna Pier and said he would step down to assume the supervisor's post.

Mr. Wilburn attributes his loss to Michigan's primary voting rules that, he believes -- by requiring voters to follow a straight party ticket -- peeled away his support. The Aug. 7 ballot included three Democrats in a high-profile contest to be the party's nominee in the Monroe County sheriff's race. Mr. Wilburn said he thinks a lot of supportive Bedford residents, convinced he was assured of victory, cast their votes on the Democratic party ticket, thus disqualifying themselves from voting for him.

"In Bedford Township, there were almost 2,000 votes that went to the Democratic Party for the sheriff's race," he said. "A lot of those people would have voted for me if they were allowed to."

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