RALEIGH — Democrats achieved a near-complete hold on the Wake County Board of Education in Tuesdays election.
With all precincts reporting unofficial results, Democrats won three races, while Bill Fletcher, who was named to the board by Democrats, narrowly defeated fellow Republican Nancy Caggia. Based on these counts, the officially nonpartisan nine-member board would include seven Democrats, an unaffiliated member who once was a Democrat, and Fletcher.
The results would end the tenure of the wave of Republicans who swept into office four years ago, bringing national attention to Wake County with attempts to end the countys policy of student assignment based on diversity.
Zora Felton, a Democratic challenger, unseated incumbent Deborah Prickett. Prickett, elected in 2009, was the only member of that years new GOP majority to seek a second term. Neither candidate could be reached for comment on Tuesday night.
Felton, who outpaced Prickett in fundraising two weeks ahead of the race, held a lead in District 7 of about 16 percentage points by the end of the night.
Monika Johnson-Hostler, a registered Democrat, led Republican Matt Scruggs by about 8 percentage points votes in District 2. The winner will replace John Tedesco, another Republican elected in 2009, to represent southeastern Wake County.
I feel like the board is finally in a good rhythm, Johnson-Hostler said.
For me, one of the reasons for joining the board was to make sure that the school board got into a place where we really were making consistent policy, making sure parents and students were involved in those decisions, and staying a steady course, so that we can actually take a look at the impact our decisions have over time.
The results also showed apparent voter approval for the school boards recent appointees.
Board members in February chose Tom Benton, a Democrat, to replace former member Chris Malone, who was elected last year to the state House. The precinct reports gave Benton a lead of about 4 percentage points over Republican challenger Don McIntyre for the District 1 seat representing eastern Wake.
Benton, a retired Wake County educator and a Democrat, won some financial support from principals and administrators in Wake County. McIntyre garnered Republican support and criticized the current school board during his campaign.
Benton said that the election results would further calm partisan tensions. This is people talking about whats best for our schools, he said.
Fletcher, a recent appointee, led Caggia by about 2 percentage points. Both are registered as Republicans, but each garnered cross-party support in the race to represent western Wake County.
The current Democratic majority gave Fletcher his seat in March, while Caggia won written support this week from Harold Weinbrecht, the Democratic mayor of Cary. She also had the endorsement of the Wake County Republican Party.
Fletchers victory was a final sting for some local Republicans: Even in a race between two Republicans, the GOPs favored candidate lost.
The campaign, Fletcher said, had reinforced his belief that voters are tired of political fights on the board.
The need to rebuild community around our schools is apparent, Fletcher said. Even folks Ive talked to today at the polls my take on what they shared with me is they dont think theyre being listened to.
Overall, the $110,218 raised by the eight school board candidates through Sept. 23 is far less than the $318,105 raised at this point in the election cycle in 2011. By the end of the 2011 campaign, the candidates and third-party groups had spent more than $600,000 in an election that put Democratic-backed candidates back in the school board majority.
The Wake County Board of Elections reported turnout at 14% for the school-board races. In the end, it proved a relatively quiet race, with results unlikely to change the boards current course.
Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC