Midtown Raleigh News

Fewer Wake school board election dollars this year

Wake County school board candidates are raising far fewer dollars than they did in 2011, and the Republican-backed hopefuls are all financially trailing their opponents.

With a month to go, campaign finance reports filed last week show that the eight candidates combined have raised $50,000. At this same time during the hotly contested 2011 school board elections, 11 candidates had reported raising $238,000 on the way to what would be a record-setting campaign in Wake.

“It’s more difficult,” said school board member Deborah Prickett, a Republican in Morrisville and northwest Raleigh’s District 7. “The people aren’t as interested in the school board races.”

By the end of the 2011 campaign, the candidates and third-party groups had spent more than $600,000 in an election that helped Democratic-backed candidates retake the board majority.

This year, four of the nine school board seats are on the Oct. 8 ballot at the same time that voters will decide on an $810 million school construction bond issue. Even if all four candidates backed by the Wake Republican Party won, the school board would remain under the control of Democratic-backed members.

School board elections are officially nonpartisan, but both major political parties have gotten heavily involved in the races, with the Wake Republican Party getting involved in 2009 to help get a new GOP majority elected.

The Wake Democratic Party backed three candidates this year. All three have raised more money than their Republican opponents.

Former school board Chairman Ron Margiotta said the disparity may be the result of Republican donors being uninterested because the GOP can’t regain control of the board this year. Margiotta, a Republican whose defeat in 2011 shifted control back to Democrats, doesn’t think student assignment is as controversial as it was when Republicans previously took control.

“I just don’t see any major issues to run on,” Margiotta said of Republicans this year.

In District 9, two Republicans are running for the Cary seat. Nancy Caggia, who was endorsed by the Wake GOP, trails school board member Bill Fletcher, who has raised the most money of any candidate: $11,125.

At this same time in 2011, eight candidates had raised at least $15,000, with two of them at more than $40,000.

This year, the biggest donor so far is Ann Campbell, a member of the board of directors of a waste reduction program company, who has given $9,000 to the three Democratic candidates. In 2011, she was the leading individual donor to the Democratic-backed candidates.

Campbell is also one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging new Wake County school board election maps drawn up this year by the state Legislature. The new maps, which would appear to favor Republican candidates, are slated to go into effect in 2016, when all nine board seats will go on the ballot.

This fall’s elections are under the old election lines.

The second-biggest donor so far is Capitol Broadcasting Co. CEO Jim Goodmon, who gave $4,000 to Fletcher, his cousin.

Matt Scruggs, a Republican running in District 2, which includes Garner, Fuquay-Varina and part of southeast Raleigh, said he’s relying more on knocking on doors than fundraising. It’s an open seat because incumbent John Tedesco, a Republican, didn’t run for re-election.

“Times are tough for people in America,” Scruggs said. “I don’t really like asking people for money.”

Scruggs’ Democratic opponent, Monika Johnson Hostler, said she’s also been knocking on doors. Hostler said she determined she’d need to raise at least $15,000 to win. As of the last report, she’s raised $6,995 to Scruggs’ $2,085.

Staff writer Paul A. Specht contributed to this report.