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Main Line (PA) Gets a True Progressive

By       Message Jane Dugdale     Permalink
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Radnor Township, on the Main Line of suburban Pennsylvania and home of High Society, is in for a dose of pure progressive leadership.  John Fisher, a 21-year resident of the township, was elected by a landslide on Election Day to a four-year term representing Ward 7 on the board of nine Commissioners, in spite of Republican wins in most of the other races.  Fisher was one of only two Democrats in Delaware County to win election against incumbent Republicans.  Fisher was installed Monday evening, November 26.

Fisher’s election came on the heels of months of work by him representing the citizens of his Ward and the township in truly progressive causes.  In a heartbreaking loss at the adjacent Ward 5 in Radnor Township, progressive John Nagle lost to incumbent Republican Lisa Paolino by three votes.  In Ward 3, long time incumbent Democrat Bill Spingler won with only a handful of votes.

Absentee ballot return noticeably reduced

In Spingler’s close victory, he noticed that the absentee ballot vote was noticeably smaller.   It turns out that the county rejected about 65 of the 160 absentee ballots submitted by Bill Spingler’s (D) supporters.

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John Fisher also noticed the absentee ballot anomaly for his ward:  of 30+ absentee ballots applied for in his ward, only 19 were returned to the polls.  When he raised the question with an employee at the board of elections office, he was answered with a shrug.  What he finally discovered was that ballots were returned to voters when their signatures “didn’t match”, but they were returned dangerously close to the deadline, and many did not make the return date.  Fisher wonders if the rejection of so many ballot requests is some form of partisan politics and wants to know if the number of Democratic ballots that were rejected is equally weighted to the number of Republican ballot requests that were rejected.

”It’s voter obstruction in either case,” said Fisher.  “and I will pursue it.  There’s no reason they (board of elections) can’t just call to confirm if the voter’s ballot is legitimate.  Many of our voters are older and signatures change.  Unless there is a clear indication of voter fraud in the application, why are we forcing voters to apply again who were caring enough to file an absentee ballot request?  What criteria, what training and what skill do the signature inspectors have before taking on this task?  Does it have partisan bias?”

Community involvement led to victory


Possibly most important in securing Fisher’s election was his work with the Garrett Hill Coalition, an ad hoc citizens’ group that grew out of dissatisfaction with the recommended actions in a Comprehensive Plan that had been developed by the Township without much input of Garrett Hill residents or small businesses. 

Fisher’s community website,, critiqued the five points of the plan, which included plans to prohibit uses that are long-established in  Garrett Hill, encourage higher buildings, and relax parking requirements.  For one of  Radnor’s densest, oldest, most diverse, and most closely-knit communities, this was a red flag for the community, concerned that developers wanted to transform the character of the neighborhood.   Garrett Hill is within walking distance of the rapidly growing Villanova University community and Fisher doesn’t want to see his neighborhood turn into a student housing area.

During October, with Fisher’s support, the Garrett Hill Coalition rallied more than a hundred citizens to attend consecutive Commissioners’ Meetings, organized themselves with officers and operating procedures, and won an agreement from the Commissioners to lead the process with their own selected people.   Fisher’s opponent, who had been recently appointed by the Republican-controlled Commissioners, sat by until the Coalition was organized enough to bring its demands to the Commissioners, and then used his position to claim that he had supported the group.  Apparently the voters, who gave Fisher 62% of the vote, saw through that claim.

Fisher also worked with citizens worried about a spike in crime over the summer by organizing a well-attended Town Hall Meeting on Crime led by members of the Radnor Township Police Department.  In addition, he is a mover in the Interfaith Coalition for Inclusive Community, which is organizing a series of community forums on diversity issues.

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Fisher had inserted himself in community issues last winter when Radnor High School, where his two sons attend, experienced a supposed “terrorist threat” and over-reacted against a student later found to be of no threat.  Fisher eventually helped organize a District Task Force and wrote the Diversity Proposal document adopted by Radnor Township School District on diversity.

In answer to a supporter’s question about the origin of his interest in diversity, Fisher answered simply, “It’s just part of peace and justice for me.”

Management and computer skills empowered the campaign

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Last year I retired after 25 years teaching in public school. I taught English Language Learners, which I first began in the Peace Corps in Chile after college. Since retirement I have become more active in MoveOn and Impeachment actions. I (more...)

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Main Line (PA) Gets a True Progressive