When the sun set last Feb. 9, there were 24 candidates signed up and chomping at the bit to run for five open seats on the Montgomery County school board. (Me included.)
The field has been narrowed now to only six on the ballot on Nov. 6. District 1 has Republican incumbent Lesa Keith going against Democrat Marcus Vandiver. District 2, where incumbent Durden Dean did not seek re-election, has Republican Ted Lowry and Democrat Clare Weil squaring off. And District 5 has Republican Jannah Bailey running against Democrat Rhonda Oats. Bailey defeated incumbent Republican Melissa Snowden in the June 5 primary.
Along with Dean, incumbent Eleanor Dawkins did not run again. Her seat will be filled by Brenda Deramus-Coleman who won the Democratic primary. There is not a Republican seeking this seat. Incumbent Democrat Robert Porterfield lost to challenger Claudia Mitchell in the party runoff. Since no one ran for this seat as a Republican, Mitchell will replace Porterfield.
Incumbent Democrats Mary Briers, District 4, and Arica Smith, District 7, did not have to run this year.
But whereas the June primary created a good bit of interest, that is not the case now. As I write the election is just three weeks away but if either of the candidates in District 2 (the seat I ran for) have put up a sign, sent any mail, etc. I am unaware of it. A check of their financial records on Secretary of State website shows that from Sept. 1 to Oct 12, Lowry only spent $270 and has 6,274 in his campaign account. Weil does not show having spent any money and has $8,027 on hand.
In the same period, Bailey shows spending only $558–and this was to pay fines to the Secretary of State’s office for not disclosing financial info properly. She also filed a report saying that she got $2,000 from Child Protect, the non-profit she runs. Of course non-profits are prohibited from donating to campaigns so she amended her form to say the money came from a realtor PAC.. She has $3,086 cash on hand. Her opponent, Rhonda Oats, has spent $633 since Sept. 1 and has $971 in the bank.
Incumbent Lesa Keith has spent only $596 and has $3,908 on hand. Her Democrat opponent, Marcus Vandiver. has not filed the weekly report due on Oct. 15. He spent $373 in September and had $699 in the bank then..
Earlier this year a political action committee was created with a stated purpose of making wholesale changes on the board. They wanted to oust all incumbents who were running. In all they spent $100,313 according to the Secretary of State website. While they were quite active in the primary, they have not raised any funds since July and only spent $1,336 in August and September.
Perhaps they consider their work over. They played a major role in defeating Melissa Snowden in District 5 and definitely aimed their guns at me in District 2–though I was not an incumbent. They were also involved in helping Claudia Mitchell defeat Robert Porterfield in the District 6 runoff.
To me, this lack of activity is disconcerting. If someone is truly concerned about Montgomery schools and students, then they should be working hard to gather votes. If someone is not willing to work to get elected, will they work once they are elected?
Secondly, as a member of the board now, I take note of who attends board meetings. Of the six running in the general election, few have shown up to observe board activities. I don ‘t understand this at all.
As I’ve written, I see dedication, compassion and passion when I visit schools. We should expect the same from citizens on the local school board. But from my vantage point, this does not seem to be the case.