One Shippensburg University student’s political endeavors to become mayor of his hometown have helped him to learn a lot about what it means to be a student and a candidate at the same time as Election Day nears.
Darren Brown is a third-year, non-traditional student at SU running for mayor of Chambersburg, Pa.
Since beginning the campaign, Brown has learned a lot about politics, balancing work and the people of his town.
Brown says it is difficult to balance school with running a political campaign, as well as working nights part-time at Sheetz.
He said it is easy for grades to slip when campaign work gets heavy, and says it is a matter of balancing time.
Brown says most of the things he learned are unexpected things that came up as he went, and they are things that cannot be learned in a political science classroom. He also advised anyone thinking of running to save their money now.
Jon McCartney is a student at SU who is also running for an elected position. He is running as a Democrat for the general assembly of Pennsylvania’s 145th district.
“The biggest challenge initially is getting accepted,” McCartney said.
While balancing school is a challenge, McCartney finds that in his case, getting accepted by the establishment as a young candidate is a big hurdle.
Brown has been working to gain acceptance from the Republican establishment and the people of Chambersburg.
He has knocked on a lot of doors in Chambersburg to tell people he is running. He has also handed out pamphlets and door-hangers to promote his campaign.
“I thought people would not want to be bothered at dinner time, but people are happy that someone came to their door and actually wants to run for office,” Brown said.
“When I first get to the door, I’m pretty sure a lot of them think I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.”
Brown says the four most common questions he gets in order of frequency are: “What’s your party?” “How old are you?” “When is the election?” “How tall are you?”
The 33-year-old, 6-foot-4-inch Republican tells them the election is Nov. 5, and is generally met with kindness and support in the heavily Republican area.
“Even when I get in situations where people don’t agree with my political views, they’re still very polite,” Brown said.
Brown says some people hear he is a Republican and immediately say they want to vote for him, and he says that is good for him but he wishes they would do their own research, too.
He also encountered some people who did not want to vote for him, but they were almost always polite about it. Brown talked about one Chambersburg man who could not vote for him because of his stance on guns, but the man said he would share Brown’s brochure with his Republican friends.
Brown discussed how he learned that campaigning is more expensive than he first thought. He has been sending letters to Republican super voters, people who vote in every election, asking for their support and money. Brown has sent 332 letters to the super voters.
“Most of the costs are coming out of pocket,” Brown said.
“It’s like riding a bike uphill.”
Brown also sent letters to the Republican committee in the Borough of Chambersburg and gathered signatures to get their support.
He says he would like to seek higher office than the mayor in the future, and views this campaign process of getting to know the area’s Republican establishment as a step toward that long-term goal.
According to Brown, the current mayor of Chambersburg, Peter Lagiovane, told him he was not running for re-election, but has since begun campaigning and putting up signs around the town.
If elected, Brown would like to use the mayor position to promote the town’s downtown and local businesses through his YouTube channel .
He would also like to use his YouTube channel to promote transparency and let people know what is going on with the local government.
Chambersburg’s government has a weak-mayor system, which means the mayor heads the police department, takes a non-voting position on borough council and serves as a spokesperson to and for the town.
He says he has spent more time campaigning than he would actually spend working as mayor. The job requires about 30 hours per month, and would pay $5,600 per year.
If Brown gets elected, the mayor of Chambersburg will be working at Sheetz. Also, he would be Chambersburg’s youngest mayor at age 33.
Brown believes very much in the power of name recognition, and thinks he can get a lot of votes by just meeting face-to-face with people.
In the few weeks until the election on Tuesday, Nov. 5, Brown plans to knock on more doors and put signs all over the town to try to compete with his incumbent opponent.
Brown was born in 1980, attended Mary B. Sharpe Elementary School and graduated from Chambersburg Area Senior High School in 1999.
His political aspirations began when he worked for State Rep. Rob Kauffman’s 2004 campaign and after presidential candidate Ron Paul inspired him.
He was in the U.S. Army and is a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. He now resides with his wife in Chambersburg and majors in political science at SU.