Politicians and political candidates are people, too. And Stan Penn’s announcement on Facebook that he’s withdrawing from the McKinney City Council District 1 race due to the constant hatred throughout his campaign proves it.
The Celt Irish Pub owner’s decision, especially, is an unusual one. Collin County’s May 1 unofficial election results showed that he received 32% of the vote, while his opponent, Justin Beller, received 41%. Since none of the candidates received over 50% of the vote, Penn and Beller would’ve gone head to head in a runoff election on June 5.
But Penn couldn’t handle the “ugliness” he consistently received on his Facebook page about everything from his ideas to fix potholes to slowing apartment growth. Mayor George Fuller even criticized Penn directly at a town hall in early April. It was starting to have an overwhelming effect on his mental health. He had to get out.
“Life is too short to have to endure something like this — at least for Stan,” Penn said. “It made me miserable and ill to see all the ugliness and hate on social media when I know most of these folks.”
Some might think Penn is making the wrong move for withdrawing since he had a shot at winning the seat in the runoff. And Penn said his decision to withdraw wasn't easy, but he became so sick of the attacks that he said the thought of being on city council “made me ill.”
“[It was the] hardest decision I've ever made,” Penn said. “But I finally got to the point to where the last thing in the world that I want to do right now in my life is to serve on city council because then you would be dealing with this every day for four years.”
The District 1 seat has been difficult to fill. In November, the previous representative, La'Shadion Shemwell, lost a recall election. Then, a McKinney pastor, Chris Thornton, replaced him for a period of days, until the city realized he lived about 40 feet over the District 1 boundary. Angela Richardson-Woods held the seat for the rest of Shemwell's term.
After months of upheaval, District 1 needs good representation. But Mayor Fuller told attendees at his April 1 town hall that “the worst possible thing that could happen for District 1 is Stan Penn.” Fuller also said that Penn was “running for the wrong reasons” and had been claiming lies about the city running on “backward deals.” He also said that if Penn couldn’t campaign on his own ideas, “then you better pack your bags and move, 'cause we don’t need you here.”
Back when Penn first heard Fuller’s comments, he said he was disappointed, but he’s Irish and “can handle it.” Just a month later, Penn reached his breaking point.
“I mean, I'm not a politician, not got a thick skin — I thought I did owning the restaurant,” Penn said. “But when you wake up every morning, and people are saying they vomit at the sound of your name, that you need to, like George said, pack up your bags and get out of town, that you're a liar [and have] no character. It just is like, why am I doing this?”
But Penn said he feels like a “lead weight’s been lifted” off his shoulders after withdrawing from the race. He’s ecstatic because “now, I get my life back," and he can get back to focusing on The Celt again.
“I’m going to continue to serve McKinney as I have in the past,” he added. “It just won’t be on the council. Ever. Never ever, ever. I would rather lose and not be on the council than to win and to be on it.”
Local Profile reached out to Penn's former opponent for comment, but didn't receive a reply by press time.