10 vying for five open seats

County school board candidates plan for second phase of campaign

September 15, 2006|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

Expect a knock on the door in the coming weeks as the battle intensifies for five positions on the county Board of Education.

Four candidates from a pool of 14 hopefuls were eliminated in Tuesday's primary election, and many of those remaining expect a close general election Nov. 7.

"I think we have a good group of candidates, and the people of Howard County should be pleased with who they have to chose from," said Ellen Flynn Giles, the former chairwoman of the Citizens Advisory Committee, who was one of five candidates separated by 3 percentage points in the primary.

"We're grouped very closely," said Giles, who earned 8.55 percent of the vote, good enough for a seventh-place finish. "We're all within a percentage point, and it is hard to know what that really means. You can't tell since people had five votes."

Larry Cohen, the retired school system employee who finished fourth and earned 10.25 percent of the vote, said that he and the other remaining candidates will have some important choices to make in the coming weeks.

"We've got to get our name out there," Cohen said. "We need to look at where we want to expend our resources - human and financial. We're going to do our best to get our message and name out there."

Joshua Kaufman, the board's chairman, plans to meet voters by knocking on the doors of some and sitting down to a cup of coffee with others.

"It's a clean slate come November," said Kaufman, who added he was not worried that he had received 9.46 percent of the vote for a fifth-place finish.

Janet Siddiqui, a pediatrician who finished sixth and earned 8.72 percent of the vote, was impressed with her showing.

"We're off to a great start considering that I did not announce my candidacy until June," she said, adding that she was also going to meet with her committee and plan her next campaign strategy.

Allen Dyer, a computer consultant and lawyer, plans to brainstorm with five of his key supporters this weekend and discuss strategies for the general election.

"I have quite a vote deficit to break into the top five," said Dyer, who finished eighth with 5.9 percent of the vote. "But there has to be a way. We've got the will."

By Wednesday evening, Dyer said, he had attempted to contact the four candidates eliminated in the primary - Marcelino M. Bedolla, a science teacher in Baltimore; Paul Aliprando, a self-employed packaging supply distributor; Peter A. Sola, a professor at Howard University; and Donald Byrd Marston Jr., a golf course clubhouse manager.

"I'm encouraged that I can get some ideas from them," Dyer said. "When you have 14 candidates, you are almost certain to have a couple of good, new ideas."

Two years ago, Frank Aquino barely missed out on a board seat to Mary Kay Sigaty. The attorney led all candidates in Tuesday's primary and earned 13.05 percent of the vote.

"I was very pleased," Aquino said. "I felt that it was important for me to do well. I feel that much better."

Aquino, who is credited for pushing for a civility policy in the school system, said he learned something from the 2004 election.

"[This time], I understood the severity of the challenge," he said. "It is a very big challenge to put yourself out there in front of everyone."

Aquino said that he will continue to meet with voters and monitor the current school board.

"I have many things to do out there," Aquino said. "It's not like I plan on doing a grand event. I'm going to sort of regroup."

Tuesday marked a successful return for Sandra H. French, the former school board chairman. Though she took a two-year hiatus from the board and was among the last group of candidates to announce, she finished second with 12.87 percent of the vote.

"It said to me that the parents and citizens of Howard County have not forgotten the things that I did," said French. "I really hoped that I would be in the top five. I am very happy and very grateful."

French cautioned that there is much more work to be done.

"You can't let up because you know that there will be a lot more voters, and you have to reach a lot more voters," French said. "You cannot be lulled into thinking this will happen in the general. But I am very happy at the moment."

Incumbent board member Patricia S. Gordon said she was going to increase her community presence in the coming weeks.

"[I'm going to] talk to as many people in as many organizations as I can schedule," said Gordon. "I will be going to different parts of the county so that [voters] can get to know me even better so they can recognize my face and resume."

Gordon finished third with 11.12 percent of the vote.

"I was pleased that I did as well as I did. However, it galvanized me to do better," she said.

Roger J. Lerner, an attorney and business adviser who received 5.06 percent of the vote and finished ninth, said he has not yet decided his strategy for the general election.

"I'm pleased that the voters have seen fit to move me to the next level of consideration," said Lerner. "And I look forward to raising the issues and addressing problems that need to be addressed."

He also directed voters to his Web site. "My positions are on my Web site and are well-known," Lerner said.

Di Zou, a recent graduate of Glenelg High School, said he is going to spend the coming weeks visiting voters at their homes and promoting his election Web site.

Zou, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park, said he is doing a good job balancing his first year of college with campaigning.

"I try to go to class as much as possible," said the mathematics and physics major. "When I have my forums, I go to forums, and any spare time I do my homework."

Zou, who claimed the last spot in the primary with 3.6 percent of the vote, said he was pleased to advance.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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