Making of a Mayor

Local News

Before the voters had their say came the remarkable efforts by both campaigns.  For weeks now we’ve been embedded behind the scenes with the candidates, both campaigns hoping they were making a mayor.

It’s a story of two candidates:  two syles, one exhausting goal.  “I really believe the people of Erie are gonna vote for me on November 7th. Obviously, we’ll see what happens. I could be wrong. That’s what the door-to-door is telling me. That’s what the people who are close to me are telling me,” Schember said pre-election.

Persinger saying, “we’ve got 18 days to go. That’s a long time in politics, but we feel the momentum in the streets. So, we’re excited.” 

Behind the wheel of his now well-known RV, it’s hard to miss the symbolism for John Persinger, who would like to steer Erie into the future.  He estimates 10,000 voter contacts with a method the consultants didn’t like. “When we have it parked in neighborhoods and people will just show up. They knock on the door. They want to get signs. They want to get t-shirts, but most importantly they just wanna talk.” 

While that RV rolls out a new kind of campaign, Joe Schember banks on a tried and true grassroots effort with a goal of 4,000 doors.  One at a time…  “My goal is to let people get to know me, being very clear about what I want to accomplish. Then, let people decide if they want me to lead Erie.” 

But, for all the differences in the ‘how’ of this campaign, there is a significant similarity in the ‘why’.  Both Schember and Persinger want to improve Erie well beyond their years in office.  The candidates and their families point to their own households as inspiration. 

John and Sarah Persinger have three young children.  He’s usually able to spend a couple hours at home. It’s part of a long day; up at five, the 36-year-old lawyer will go into the office for a few hours, then a day of campaigning and a little time at home before heading back to the office until midnight or 1am.   “It’s been a lot of stress on the family, but we believe it’s for something good and it’s worth it,” says Sarah.  “We’re here in Erie and we want to see it doing better and John wants to take the city in a new direction so it will be a thriving place for young families like ours.”

Jamie Schember is home from San Francisco for the stretch run, her brother Joe from Albany, helping their so-called retired dad with the campaign that’s now a seven day a week job.  His goal?  Making Erie a place where they could stay.  “Just seeing people’s reactions is amazing,” says Jamie. “You know, we’ll go up to someone’s door. They don’t even know us, but they’re like, we know your Dad. He’s a great guy.”

With their city at a crossroads, two candidates and two families making a gutsy request, that after months of intense work, it all comes down to one day, and the one style that lures the most votes. 

Rhonda Schember saying, “I’ll tell you the city will get a bargain if they get him because he’s that valuable.”

While Sarah says, “When all is said and done, I think we’ll be comfortable to say we did the best we could.”

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