Longtime educator Tonya Chestnut of Selma defeated Fred Bell of Montgomery in the July 14 Democrat runoff for the District 5 state school board seat. This is the position held for 18 years by the late Ella Bell, who passed away last fall.
Governor Ivy appointed Tommie Stewart to fill the remainder of Bell’s term. She did not seek election for a four-year term
The primary in this race was held last March 2, however, because of Covid-19, the runoff was pushed back to July 14.. Eight candidates ran in the primary. Fred Bell got 30 percent (24,589) of the vote, while Chestnut got 20 percent (16,044). There were a total of 81,033 votes cast. But because of a lack of contested races in the Democratic runoff, only 34,602 people voted on July 14.
This decline was especially notable in Montgomery County. Whereas Bell received 11,816 votes in Montgomery in the primary, he only got 2,912 in the runoff. And while Bell got a total of 24,589 votes to lead the primary, he only got 13,372 in the runoff. Chestnut did a much better job of holding on to her votes. She got 16,044 in the primary and increased this to 21,230 in the runoff. The most striking example of this was in her home of Dallas County were she got 5,531 votes on March 2 and 4,937 on July 14.
By comparison, Bell got 11,818 in Montgomery in the primary, but only 2,912 in the runoff.
Geographically, this is the largest state board seat, including all or portions of 16 counties and running from Macon County to the Mississippi line and to downtown Mobile. Historically, it has been a minority-held seat.
Montgomery County school board member and Republican Lesa Keith is running against Chestnut in the Nov. 3 general election. However, she will be a definite underdog.