Truitt has withdrawn runoff request

Staff WriterOctober 21, 2009 

Wake County school board candidate Cathy Truitt has withdrawn her request for a runoff, potentially allowing the contest to be called off so that John Tedesco can be declared the outright election winner.

Truitt endorsed Tedesco at a joint press conference today after submitting a letter this morning to the Wake County Board of Elections rescinding her Oct. 7 request for a runoff. Wake County Board of Elections Director Cherie Poucher said she will call a special meeting of the county board on Friday to recommend asking the state Board of Elections for guidance about whether a runoff still has to be held.

Truitt had announced Monday that she was conceding the election to Tedesco. In that scenario, her concession letter would have meant a runoff would still be held with her name on the Nov. 3 ballot, but if she had gotten the most votes then the school board would fill the seat.

Poucher said Truitt’s request to rescind the runoff is a totally different issue that’s not covered under state law. She said that if Truitt had only dropped out of the race that state law would require the runoff to continue, costing more than $30,000.

“Since it’s not addressed by the law, it’s something to bring to the state board,” Poucher said.

The State Board of Elections could decide Monday whether to hold the runoff while they meet to discuss the ongoing Mike Easley campaign finance investigation. Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state board, said state law doesn't cover this situation and the state board has the authority to cancel the election.

Today's endorsement was major turnaround for Truitt, who had warned at her Monday press conference that Tedesco and other newly elected board members would put Wake on a path toward resegregated schools. But Truitt said she had a change of heart after meeting with Tedesco Tuesday night and getting his assurance that he would try to maintain diversity in the county's schools.

"Parents, you can tell your children you're safe, you are cared for," Truitt said. "We will not go back to resegregated schools.

Truitt said Tedesco also agreed to work with Greater Garner Advocates, a group that had endorsed Truitt and had concerns that magnet programs might be eliminated under the new board. Tedesco said that while the new board will review the program, there were no plans to eliminate it. He said the new board would act only after weighing input from parents and taxpayers.

"We will have neighborhood schools, but we will do it at a reasonable pace," Tedesco said.

Truitt, a retired educator, said she hoped the runoff — and its cost to taxpayers — could be avoided. But if it can't, she's offered her services as an education consultant as in-kind payment to help offset the costs.

Truitt received less than half of Tedesco’s votes on Oct. 6. Tedesco, a vice president with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, received 49.4 percent of the vote, falling short of the votes needed to avoid a runoff for the District 2 seat.

A Tedesco victory will ensure a new board majority that backs community schools and opposes busing for diversity and mandatory year-round schools.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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