Tedesco and Truitt trade barbs

Staff WritersOctober 19, 2009 

  • Another round of municipal and school board races is scheduled for Nov. 3. These contests include:

    Wake school board District 2 runoff

    Cary Town Council District A runoff

    Municipal elections in several Wake and Johnston towns

    Durham mayor and City Council general election

    Chapel Hill mayor and Town Council

    Carrboro mayor and Board of Aldermen

    Hillsborough mayor and Town Commissioners

    Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board


    Early voting for the Nov. 3 municipal and school board races in the Triangle started Thursday in Wake, Durham and Orange counties and begins Tuesday in Durham. It ends in all four counties Oct. 31.

    Wake County Board of Elections, 337 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Friday and Oct. 26 to 30, and 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Oct. 31. Also, early ballots can be cast at the Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary from 11 a.m. to 7p.m. Oct. 28 to 30 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 31.

    Durham County Board of Elections, 706 W. Corporation St., Durham, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through next Saturday and Oct. 26 to 30. Also, early ballots can be cast from noon until 3 p.m. Oct. 25 and 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Oct. 31.

    Johnston County Board of Elections, 205 S. Second St., Smithfield, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Oct. 26 to 30. Also, early ballots can be cast from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. Oct. 31.

    Orange County Board of Elections, 110 E. King St., Hillsborough, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Oct. 26 to 30, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 31. Also, there will be early voting hours at Carrboro Town Hall, 301 W. Main St., Carrboro, and Morehead Planetarium, 230 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and Oct.26 to 30, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 31.

He says she changes positions with political winds and gets mired in old thinking that won't move Wake County schools forward.

She says he's a pawn of western Wake and his policies could lead to resegregated schools, something she vows to prevent.

Those are samples of the sharp-edged campaign talk from Wake County school board candidates John Tedesco, 34, a vice president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, and Cathy Truitt, 60, a consultant and retired educator. Politicians and education experts say the direction of the 140,000-student schools system is on the line, including the fate of magnet schools, student reassignments and school diversity.

With four opponents to the diversity policy already on the board -- one incumbent plus three candidates who scored outright victories Oct. 6, the Nov. 3 runoff between Truitt and Tedesco will determine the ruling majority on the nine-member board. The rhetoric intensified correspondingly.

"Every day, it's a different kind of sensational language," Tedesco said of Truitt's charge that she will stop him from resegregating the schools.

The intensity of the campaign could drop sharply today, when Truitt is scheduled to announce whether she'll stay in the race. She finished significantly behind Tedesco on Oct 6.

Truitt has declared that "forced busing" for diversity is dead and that she, like Tedesco, would support a return to community schools. She says she'll maintain diversity through increased use of magnet schools.

Truitt has called herself an independent voice who will represent the voters of District 2, which largely consists of Garner, Fuquay-Varina and Willow Spring. She charges that Tedesco, if elected, would be heavily influenced by the Wake Schools Community Alliance, a parent group and political action committee that backed him and the three candidates who won in October. Many members are from Cary, Apex and other western Wake communities, although the group has a countywide presence.

Tedesco would likely align with current school board member Ron Margiotta, an Apex resident, and the three new board members to form a new board majority.

"If you want a political pawn of Ron Margiotta and western Wake County, vote for John Tedesco," Truitt said in a political ad.

Four current school board members generally favor Wake County's policy of busing students to ensure that each school has a balance of students from different economic backgrounds.

"If Cathy is elected, control would finally be more with what's good for the county and what's good for the whole," said Debbie McHenry, who ran for the school board in 2005 and is backing Truitt. "If Tedesco is elected, then Cary, Apex and Ron Margiotta are in control."

Not at all, responded Tedesco, who won nearly half the votes in the district, compared to not quite half that number for Truitt. Tedesco's totals, within a few votes of avoiding a runoff, came despite Truitt's fundraising advantage.

"I have a connection to our community that all the money in the world can't buy," Tedesco said. "All the money in the world can't buy her sincerity as she continues to flounder on the key issues of the day based on her efforts to chase votes."

McHenry noted the campaign donations that Tedesco has received from residents of western Wake. He received $2,700 from the Wake Schools Community Alliance by late September.

Both candidates are Republicans and ran as alternatives to current school board policies, but they differ in both substance and style.

Before results in the Oct. 6 primary were even official, Truitt said she could prevent segregation in county schools by becoming a swing vote on the nine-member board.

Tedesco said he's already working with new elected members, Debra Goldman, Deborah Prickett and Chris Malone, in anticipation of joining the panel with the help of enthusiastic voters in his district.

"I talk to the community leaders; they are excited to have someone young and energetic, with a broader view of the community," Tedesco said Friday. "I'm going to be here for a generation, long after Ms. Truitt is gone."

Tedesco has criticized Truitt for attending an Oct. 5 news conference in which she stood side-by-side with supporters of the diversity policy. Two days later, the day after the election, she declared "forced busing" to be dead. Margiotta said voters can't be sure where Truitt stands on ending busing for diversity.

Truitt denies she flip-flopped on the diversity policy.

"People didn't believe there was a choice between forced busing and resegregation of neighborhood schools," Truitt said. "Now they're beginning to see there's a choice."

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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