Wake Ed

Political parties make Wake County school board endorsements

Wake County school board candidates Bill Fletcher, Mike Tanbusch, Gary Lewis and Lindsay Mahaffey attended a forum on Sept. 29, 2016 at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church in Cary. None of the four candidates were endorsed by either the Wake County Democratic Party or the Wake County Republican Party.
Wake County school board candidates Bill Fletcher, Mike Tanbusch, Gary Lewis and Lindsay Mahaffey attended a forum on Sept. 29, 2016 at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church in Cary. None of the four candidates were endorsed by either the Wake County Democratic Party or the Wake County Republican Party. T. Keung Hui

The Democratic and Republican parties have issued their Wake County school board endorsements and in the process made major snubs by declining to back any candidates in some races.

The Wake County Democratic Party is endorsing all six Democratic incumbents: Chairman Tom Benton in District 1, Vice Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler in District 2, Keith Sutton in District 4, Jim Martin in District 5, Christine Kushner in District 6 and Zora Felton in District 7.

The Wake County Republican Party is endorsing Donald Agee in District 1, Peter Hochstaetter in District 2 and Gil Pagan in District 8.

All nine Wake school board seats are on the Nov. 8 ballot. In some ways, it’s more interesting seeing which candidates were not endorsed in the officially non-partisan contests.

The Wake GOP declined to discuss why endorsements were not made in District 3 or District 9 even though only Republicans are on the ballot in both contests. Roxie Cash is running unopposed in District 3. Board member Bill Fletcher is being challenged by Mike Tanbusch in District 9.

Charles Hellwig, first vice chairman of the Wake County GOP, said he can’t comment on the Wake Republican Party Executive Committee’s executive session discussions on the endorsements.

Both Cash and Fletcher have been had their Republican credentials questioned by some in the GOP for not being conservative enough. In 2013, the Wake Republican Party endorsed another Republican over Fletcher.

Both Cash and Fletcher had been among a bipartisan group of former school board members who had signed a statement in 2010 urging the school system maintain its commitment to having diverse school populations. Positions such as these could explain why no Democrats are running in those two districts.

In backing Agee, Hochstaetter and Pagan, the Wake GOP chose to endorse them over other Republicans running in each race.

“The Committee picked those candidates because we felt they were the most qualified and best represented our party's values and hopes for the direction of the Wake County School board,” Hellwig said Monday in an email message.

The Wake GOP also didn’t endorse candidates in the four races where only registered Democrats filed.

The Wake Democratic Party didn’t make endorsements in District 3 and District 9 where only registered Republicans filed.

Wake Democrats also didn’t make an endorsement in District 8 even though Lindsay Mahaffey is the lone Democrat running against two registered Republicans. Brian Fitzsimmons, chair of the Wake Democratic Party, said that Mahaffey was still registered as unaffiliated when endorsements were decided over the summer.

Fitzsimmons didn’t rule out the possibility of Mahaffey getting endorsed later.

In terms of the other school board races on the ballot, Fitsimmons said the Wake Democratic Party decided the most “amenable thing” to do was to endorse all Democratic incumbents. This knocked out Democratic challengers in District 1 and District 4.

Fitzsimmons said Democrats are particularly focused on helping Benton and Johnson-Hostler get re-elected in the face of Republican-backed opposition. Three of the other four Democratic incumbents are running unopposed.

“We are comfortable with the slate of candidates we have on the Board of Education for this fall,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve got incredible incumbents and we’ve got awesome people in the ballot we need to re-elect.”

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