A majority of State College borough residents are students, and a recently formed organization called BugPAC sought to bring them more representation in local government.
BugPAC is an organization of students, community leaders and people in State College who want to elect more candidates and local government officials who will represent the diversity of the borough — in both the traditional sense of the term and the demographics, said Kevin Horne, BugPAC chairman.
BugPAC endorsed Democratic candidates Marina Cotarelo, Dan Murphy and incumbent Evan Myers for State College Borough Council, and Michael Black for mayor.
The only commitment BugPAC wanted from the candidates it endorsed was that they would work to make sure that students were adequately heard and represented, and that their interests were taken into account, Horne, a recent graduate of Penn State Law, said.
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“We didn’t want to run based on specific policies. We wanted to run on changing the culture because it can get unwelcoming in the borough council room and in this town,” he said.
Myers and Murphy secured two of the three Democratic nominations for council, while Theresa Lafer won the third spot.
One of BugPAC’s big goals was to get students registered to vote and absentee ballots requested, Horne said, because the primary happens after most students leave State College for the summer.
State College borough saw a significant increase in absentee ballots from the 2015 municipal primary.
In 2015, 36 absentee ballots were issued in the borough and 30 were returned, said Jodi Neidig, the county’s election coordinator.
For Tuesday’s election, 676 absentee ballots were mailed and 196 came back, she said.
It’s “highly unusual,” Neidig said, saying that typically in a municipal primary there would be between 300 and 350 absentee ballots issued countywide.
On the Republican ticket, Lynn Herman received 429 votes, while Richard Fitzgerald scored 385, according to the county elections office. There were also 184 write-in votes.
Detailed write-in information is expected by the end of the week. Whoever nets the most write-in votes (with a minimum of 10) will be listed as the third Republican on the ballot in November’s general election.
The same goes for the mayor’s race, because there was no Republican running in the primary.
So there’s still a chance BugPAC could get Cotarelo or Black on the ballot in the fall.
And this isn’t the last of BugPAC’s work.
BugPAC is happy with how things turned out in the primary, but it’s also looking to future races, Horne said, adding that hopefully this will be a multi-year campaign.