Wake Ed

Status of 2016 Wake County school board elections unclear

The announcement Wednesday that Wake County school board member Susan Evans will run for the North Carolina Senate in 2016 comes at a time when there’s uncertainty who may vie for Board of Education seats next year.

The new reconfigured election lines for the Wake County school board and Wake County Board of Commissioners adopted by the General Assembly are scheduled to go into effect next year. Federal lawsuits challenging the legislature’s new lines for both Wake County boards have been consolidated into a single case with the trial scheduled to begin in December.

If the new maps are upheld, it means completely new lines for all nine school board seats on the November 2016 ballot. Evans was triple-bunked in the same district as fellow school board members Bill Fletcher and Jim Martin, who both have substantially similar views as Evans on education issues.

While the school board races are officially non-partisan, Evans, a Democrat, would have found herself in a district that based on past election results leans Republican. She could have also run in the newly created super-regional district encompassing the suburbs, which again leans Republican.

Evans will instead run for the District 17 seat now held by Republican Sen. Tamara Barringer. Wednesday’s campaign announcement was issued by Ryan Deeter, executive director, North Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus, so it’s clear that Evans is the party’s standard-bearer for the seat.

Evans defeated former school board Chairman Ron Margiotta in 2011, helping flip control of the school board from Republicans back to Democrats. It was supposed to have been a four-year term, but it was extended when the General Assembly redrew the lines and moved this year’s elections to 2016.

If the lines are declared unconstitutional, it’s uncertain what remedy could be mandated by a federal judge for next year’s election.

Amid the uncertainty, no candidates have yet publicly announced they’ll run for school board next year. Some current school board members have complained the new lines are so non-compact compared to the old lines that it will make it hard to campaign.

For those who are interested, the Wake redistricting trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Dec. 16 in courtroom one of the U.S. Courthouse at 310 New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. U.S. Chief District Judge James Dever III will preside over the bench trial.