Politics & Government

Write-in candidate won’t replace deceased Wake County school board member

Kathy Hartenstine
Kathy Hartenstine

Wake County election officials will let the school board replace deceased board member Kathy Hartenstine and not fill her seat with a write-in candidate,

Hartenstine, who had been running for election unopposed, died in September. Elections officials said it was too late to reopen the candidate filing period and to print new ballots for the Nov. 6 contest.

The Wake County Board of Elections declared Friday that the District 7 school board seat was vacant because Hartenstine got 95 percent of the votes. Under the section of state law being used by election officials, the school board will now fill the position.

Citing legal advice, election officials did not go with a conflicting section of state law which says the write-in candidate with the most votes should get the seat.

“The four attorneys that all looked at it came to the same conclusion,” said Keith Weatherly, chairman of the Wake board of elections.

Weatherly said the decision is final unless a protest is filed by a voter in District 7, which includes Morrisville and parts of Cary and northwest Raleigh.

Of the 1,375 write-in votes cast, Karl Rectanus had the most with 40. Rectanus, the founder of a Raleigh-based education technology firm and a former history teacher, had launched a last-minute write-in campaign as a civics lessons for his daughters after Hartenstine died .

Even if Rectanus had been declared the winner, he announced this week he would not accept the position.

Elizabeth Benjamin had the second-most write-in votes at 24. Some Morrisville parents upset that the school board plans to open Parkside Elementary School on a year-round calendar had lobbied for Benjamin.

The school system has been moving ahead with filling the seat after saying it got legal guidance from the State Board of Elections.

Applications for the District 7 seat are due to the school board Nov. 26. The school board plans to interview candidates and fill the seat by Christmas.

Hartenstine, 68, a retired Wake principal who was appointed to the board in 2017 to replace the late Zora Felton, had been set to win a two-year term. But she died Sept. 23 from what her family says were complications due to the flu.

The expectation that the school board would fill the vacancy was thrown into doubt after Election Day when attorneys for the county elections board raised the possibility that the winner could be a write-in candidate.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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