Union County: School board chair who favored redistricting loses by wide margin

More than half of Union County’s school board seats were up for election Tuesday, the first chance voters had to weigh in following the board authorizing a controversial redistricting plan this year.

In unofficial returns with all precincts in, voters tossed out the board chair, Richard Yercheck, who had led the fight for redistricting while re-electing Marce Savage, a board member who opposed the plan.

In District 3, Yercheck was beaten by a 2-to-1 margin by challenger Gary Sides, who won 66 percent of the vote.

In a surprise vote in March, a divided school board approved the redistricting plan to deal with overcrowding, sending thousands of students to less-crowded schools. Much of the overcrowding is in the fast-growing western portion of Union County.

Many parents howled at the changes, and a group of them unsuccessfully sued the district to try to stop the plan from proceeding at the start of the current school year.

The board member who introduced the redistricting resolution, John Crowder, died in March, the week after the vote. The board appointed Jim Bention Sr. to fill his District 1 seat through the election, and Bention ran to fill the remaining two years of Crowder’s term. Bention lost to Sharon Harrell, who had 62 percent of the vote.

All the other school board seats are four-year terms.

Tension on the school board flared up last month when board member Kevin Stewart, who is not up for re-election, questioned the ethics and performance of Savage, the board vice chair. Savage called the charges politically motivated.

Savage beat Jason Marton for the District 6 seat with 57 percent of the vote in early ballot totals.

Two seats had no incumbents. The race for the at-large seat saw Leslie Boyd, Sean Maher and Dennis Rape face off. Boyd won with nearly 36 percent of the vote, holding off Rape at 34 percent and Maher at 30 percent.

The District 4 seat winner was Melissa Merrell, with 50 percent of the vote over Casey Carver and Monica Earp Frank.

The other contested race in the county involved the sheriff’s department. Incumbent Eddie Cathey crushed challenger Sandra Peterson, with 72 percent of the vote.

And in Wesley Chapel, voters easily approved plans to allow ABC stores and the sale of malt beverages in the community.