Voters re-elected six Wake County school board members on Tuesday but ousted board Chairman Tom Benton and also elected newcomer Lindsay Mahaffey, who was heavily outspent.
Donald Agee, a former Wake school facilities department employee, had 35.27 percent of the vote in District 1 compared with 34 percent for Benton in an area covering northern and eastern Wake. The margin was just outside of which Benton could request a recount.
Benton, a former Wake teacher and principal, had campaigned on his experience and deeds since joining the board in 2013. Agee had campaigned on being more efficient with how Wake spends its money for educational programs and construction projects.
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In District 8, Mahaffey defeated Gil Pagan and Gary Lewis with 42 percent of the vote to represent southwestern Wake. Under a change in state law, Wake school board candidates only needed a plurality to win.
Mahaffey stressed she was the only teacher among the three candidates. She won despite being significantly outspent by Lewis, who had raised $24,541 to her $2,442.
In addition, Lewis had received the backing of several current school board members. Mahaffey was also not endorsed by the Wake County Democratic Party despite being the only Democrat in the contest.
Mahaffey replaces school board member Susan Evans, who ran for a seat in the N.C. Senate.
In the other contested races, board Vice Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler and board members Bill Fletcher and Keith Sutton easily won. Board members Zora Felton, Christine Kushner and Jim Martin and former board member Roxie Cash were unopposed in their districts.
The election results are not expected to lead to any major changes in the leadership of the state’s largest school system. The officially nonpartisan school board will still consist of a Democratic majority with six of the nine members.
Agee will call himself the one conservative Republican on the board. Cash and Fletcher, both Republicans, were not endorsed by the Wake County Republican Party.
All nine seats were on the ballot following a long legal fight in which the Republican-led General Assembly had redrawn the election maps and moved the elections to even-numbered years. Federal judges declared the state-drawn maps unconstitutional and directed that maps adopted by the school board in 2011 be used.
Instead of the usual four-year terms, the nine members elected Tuesday will serve two-year terms. State lawmakers are expected to revisit the school board election maps next year.
Donald Agee 35.27%
Mary Beth Ainsworth 16.54%
Tom Benton (i) 34.00%
Sheila W. Ellis 13.76%
Peter Hochstaetter 37.08%
Monika Johnson-Hostler (i) 46.63%
Mark A. Ivey 15.83%
Heather Elliott 26.29%
Keith Sutton (i) 73.03%
Gary Lewis 27.26%
Lindsay Mahaffey 41.93%
Gil Pagan 30.26%
Bill Fletcher (i) 68.56%
Michael Tanbusch 30.26%
All precincts reporting