RALEIGH — The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, is hailing Tuesday's Wake County school board election results that could change the direction of the state's largest school system as "a major step forward."
On Tuesday, Democratic school board candidates captured four school board seats with the outcome of a fifth seat that will determine who is in the majority to be decided in a Nov. 8 runoff election. One of the defeated candidates was Republican school board chairman Ron Margiotta, who had sent out campaign mailers trying to link Democrat Susan Evans with Barber, who has been a controversial figure in Wake politics.
Barber, as leader of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had fought the Republican board majority's elimination of the diversity policy. In Margiotta's literature, side-by-side photos of Evans and Barber were shown with warnings saying they had the same agenda and would bring back busing for socioeconomic diversity.
"We noted with disgust and dismay, that the Margiotta/Tedesco/Pope group of ideologues condoned the use of racist mailers and Internet images, one featuring an unflattering photo of me with Mr. Margiotta's opponent," Barber said in a written statement released this morning. "Those who used racist propaganda and dirty tricks seem to have forgotten that the education of our children is a sacred thing -- our teachers are sacred, our schools are sacred and our school leaders have a sacred duty to be responsible for all our children. Tonight we thank God the people didn't forget."
Barber, whose group's civil rights complaint led to the ongoing federal investigation of Wake's elimination of the diversity policy, had kept a low public profile during the school board campaign.
The focus over the next month will be on the District 3 school board race that covers northeast Raleigh. Democratic board member Kevin Hill finished, according to unofficial returns with 49.7 percent of the vote, finishing just shy in the four-person field of a majority needed to avoid a run-off.
Republican challenger Heather Losurdo, who finished in second place with 39.9 percent of the vote, said Tuesday night she would seek a run-off.
The winner of the District 3 seat will determine whether Republicans retain their 5-4 majority of if Democrats complete their sweep to have five of the nine seats. If Hill wins, Democrats would hold the majority for the next four years because only seats now held by Republicans will be on the 2013 ballot.
"While there is still some more voting to be done in the days to come, tonight we believe, marks a major step forward on the highway of justice and love," Barber said. "Children of all colors, we pray, can once again feel welcome in their schools and at their school board."