Ex-candidates unite in school reform effort

Advocates seeking to put at least one they support on the November ballot

May 16, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Ten of the 13 Howard County Board of Education candidates who did not make it past the primary election in April have formed a committee to place one or two names on November's general election ballot.

At a meeting Friday, the ex-candidates formed the Committee to Reform the Board of Education, and agreed to hold a petition drive to place at least one - and possibly two - names on the ballot.

"After viewing the primary election results, it became clear that the candidates who did not move on to the general election were largely reform candidates and won 65 percent of the votes," said Stephen Swanhart, a former candidate, in a written statement. Swanhart came in 16th in the primary.

Former candidates said that the winners of April's primary election - incumbent Stephen C. Bounds, Virginia Charles, Patricia S. Gordon and Jerry D. Johnston - are all "status quo candidates," who aren't interested in major changes in the school district.

The committee members consider themselves reformists and said if reform candidates' votes are tallied, it's clear more county residents voted for change in the primary election.

Two seats will be open in November.

"I'm hoping that we get a candidate who will be someone that the 65 percent [of voters] will be happy with," said committee member Glenn Amato, who placed fifth in the primary.

But Evelyn Purcell, director of the Howard County Board of Elections, said state law prohibits petition candidates being added to the ballot.

"For most offices, if they petition to have someone's name put on the ballot, they have to get a certain number of signatures, but for the Board of Education, they cannot do that," Purcell said.

Purcell said the most the committee can do is start a campaign to encourage voters to write in the name of the reformist they would like to see elected.

Committee member Allen Dyer, who ranked 15th in the primary, said other members checked with the state board of elections and were told they could, in fact, file a petition to have names added. The committee does not plan to start a write-in campaign, he said.

Donna Duncan, director of the election management division of the state board of elections, said the law is unclear as to why a petition candidate is unacceptable for school board elections, but that it might have something to do with the nonpartisan nature of the position.

"It is very clear that they cannot file by petition," Duncan said.

Whether write-in or petition, the committee has not decided which former candidates it wants to add to the ballot. That decision should be made this week, said former seventh-grade teacher Kristine Lockwood, who placed seventh in the primary.

"We still intend to reform the board," Lockwood said. "The status quo is not an option."

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