A candidate too nice for dog-eat-dog politics

Paul Bracy won't sue to get on the ballot though he was booted on a curious technicality.  Ignoring naysayers who say he has no chance of being elected, he's now running for a seat on the Burlco Freeholder Board as a write-in candidate.   

After all, Lisa Murkowski was elected as a write-in for a Senate seat in Alaska last year, the eternal optimist says with a grin.  

Paul Bracy, a write-in candidate for Burlington County Freeholder, waves his sign at the July 4th parade in Riverton. His one and only sign was recently stolen. (Photo by Jan Hefler/Inquirer)

But Bracy faces a bigger hurdle.  For more than two decades, the board has been controlled by a polished, well-funded GOP machine.   Bracy, a retired special ed teacher from Mount Holly with no experience in politics, is an Independent.  He has no campaign manager and little money.  And he dislikes being rude or nasty. 

He's already had several setbacks.  He missed getting on the ballot in the Democratic primary race by one vote when a good friend forgot he had changed parties and signed his petition.  "We had too many Tequilas that night," Bracy says.  See an interview with him here:  http://www.philly.com/bracy

The Democratic Party endorsed someone else and challenged Bracy's petition.  He was left with only 99 valid signatures. 

Bracy cheerfully went out and got 197 signatures - a 97-vote cushion - to make the ballot as an Independent.   Deputy county clerk Wade Hale initially told him that would be okay and wished him luck.   But after Bracy presented him with the petition, Hale said the county lawyers did some research and found out a candidate cannot get a second bite of the apple in the same election.  Never mind that the other petition was disqualified.

Bracy said the clerk apologized and was decent enough to call him.  "I felt sorry for the guy," Hale said. 

"It was an honest mistake," Bracy says.  He said he didn't want to sue because it might hurt the clerk's career. 

Undaunted, Bracy decided to run as a write-in.  So far, he has made 1,166 Facebook friends.  He raises funds at local taverns where he offers free buffets and sponsors raffles.  The problem is he gave half of the $700 he raised to charities.  They need the money, he says with a shrug. 

See an interview with him here:  http://www.philly.com/bracy

For several months, Bracy would wear a heavy sign on his shoulders to promote his campaign at parades and at other events.  "Personal Choice Candidate Paul Bracy," the sign shouts in red-white-and-blue.  "For Change:  Freeholder Not Freeloader."

But a few weeks ago, someone stole it from his front lawn.  "I don't know if it was the Republicans or the Democrats," he said.   

As if either party might see him as a threat.  "I hope that whoever has it, enjoys it," he said.  "It was a beautiful sign." 

 Since then, he has purchased a few lawn signs - but they're much smaller.  It doesn't matter, he says, "because I'm going to make history and win."