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Picking a party: What records reveal about CMS board candidates

Nine candidates – seven Democrats, one Republican and one unaffiliated – are running for Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board in 2015.
Nine candidates – seven Democrats, one Republican and one unaffiliated – are running for Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board in 2015.

The nine candidates for Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board are a squeaky clean batch when it comes to background checks.

When our staff looked into the Charlotte mayoral candidates, they found a slew of criminal and civil issues, including one candidate (since eliminated) who had been to prison four times. With the CMS crew we got nothing.

About as racy as it gets so far are whispers about whether Elyse Dashew and Jeremy Stephenson switched allegiances to garner party support in the ostensibly nonpartisan campaign.

School board races don’t have primaries, and party affiliations won’t be listed on the Nov. 3 ballot. But both political parties have been known to promote slates for school board, and when Dashew finished a close fourth after a hard-fought campaign as an unaffiliated voter in 2011 a lot of folks took it as a sign that such candidates face a crippling disadvantage.

Dashew doesn’t deny that played a role in her decision to register as a Democrat before this year’s run. And Stephenson, who was unaffiliated until January, says the same about his decision to register Republican.

Recently some of us started hearing rumors that voting records show that until recently Dashew was a Republican and Stephenson a Democrat.

At first I was puzzled by where anyone was getting that. Then I realized that the N.C. Board of Elections has upgraded its voter registration search to list which primaries people have voted in. According to those records, Dashew has voted in four Democratic and three GOP primaries, while Stephenson has chosen two Democratic and two Republican primaries.

That doesn’t mean they’re lying about their history as unaffiliated voters. North Carolina lets independents pick a primary. Whether you consider it a plus or a minus, it looks to me like both of them were, in fact, independent.

By the way, the Mecklenburg Democratic Party tells me that this year the party won’t narrow its list for endorsement, but will hold a “meet the candidate” reception for all seven.

You can learn more about all nine candidates (including one unaffiliated) at the Observer’s election page. The top three will win four-year terms representing the full county.

And I’ll save some of you a few clicks: I looked up my own history as an unaffiliated voter, and found that I have voted in two Democratic, one Republican and one unaffiliated primary. That last one puzzled me until someone reminded me that the vote on North Carolina’s Amendment One on gay marriage was held during the 2012 primaries, so apparently I opted to vote on that without casting a party ballot.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms