State College

Write-in crashes Ferguson Township supervisors race

Just because your name isn’t on the ballot doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.

Tuesday’s primary election went well for some last-minute campaigners looking to land a spot in the November general election. A last-minute write-in campaign in Ferguson Township landed a new name to the ballot for November’s general election.

Laura Dininni, who has been vocal on the perceived threat to drinking water by a proposed development above the Harter-Thomas wellfield, said she and a few other residents decided late last week to try and get their names on the November Board of Supervisors ballot, giving some competition to the incumbents.

Dininni said she was inspired to run by fellow residents who asked if she could take a more active role in municipal government, adding that there is a lot of opportunity that is yet to be tapped in terms of regional cooperation.

Getting people on her side wasn’t difficult, she said, as many are concerned about the the drinking water of the region and were happy to see a candidate willing to stand up.

“I’m not strongly party affiliated,” she said. “But I don’t think clean drinking water is a party issue, and I think a lot of folks feel the same way.”

Dininni said she has no intention of running on a single issue, and sees the water issue as an opportunity to help guide the government to serve the residents instead of vice versa. She also welcomes the opportunity for open debates with the incumbent supervisors.

“We’ll use whatever means that are available to us to get the message out to the public and move forward to November,” she said.

According to the office of elections, Dininni received 25 write-in votes, 15 more than what is needed to be added to the ticket. She will face incumbent Chairman Dick Mascolo in November.

While the races for county sheriff and register of wills each featured only one name on the Democratic ticket — automatically ensuring a place in the November general election — voters saw some heat generated on the Republican side of the ballot.

Bryan Sampsel, who serves in the sheriff’s department, faced Pennsylvania State Police officer Richard Swank, an Air Force veteran, for the seat that county Sheriff Denny Nau has held for 24 years. In the register of wills race, 28-year veteran of the register’s office Christine Millinder ran against Centre County Jury Commissioner Hope Miller.

According to unofficial results from the county office of elections, Sampsel received 4,610 votes to Richard Swank’s 2,152, while Millinder topped Miller 4,188 to 2,774. Official election results are expected next week.

Millinder thanked her family, friends and those who stood behind her along the way, saying it was humbling to know she had so much support.

“It was definitely a challenge,” she said, “but I’m humbled and stronger because of it.”

The biggest challenge now, she said, is continuing with business as usual while preparing for November. Running for an office as a whole is a challenge itself, she said, on top of her commitment to the office and normal full-time responsibilities.

She said her plan for November is to keep getting out and meeting people. Whether she would stay in the office should she lose the general election would be up to the winner, she said.

Millinder will face Democratic challenger Amanda McCartney in the general election.

Sampsel said the biggest challenge of his campaign was trying to attend events and meet people while balancing the needs of his two children.

“I enjoyed meeting people,” he said, “but time was a challenge with two kids and a wife working in the evening. But the word got out at least.”

But there’s no relaxing after the primary as Sampsel said he is already working on the November election.

“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and get out over the summer,” he said. “It’s a little easier to get out and attend events and meet people, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and plugging away at it.”

Even if he weren’t elected in November, he said he would still like to work in the department and work with the new sheriff.

Sampsel goes up against Democratic challenger Matthew Rickard in November.

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